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First responders meet with Wisconsin state legislators to address growing issues in EMS community

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MADISON (WKOW) -- First responders from across the state are joining together to educate lawmakers about the growing issues facing the EMS community.

On Wednesday, EMS and Fire Department workers hosted their first-ever EMS Day at the Capital, to address issues like funding, recruitment, and retention.

"Funding is a major issue for our department and we want to make sure that we're providing the care to the community but we also want to do it in a reasonable manner," said Director of Reedsburg Area Ambulance Service Director Josh Kowalke.

Kowalke says many EMS departments across the state, especially in rural communities, are struggling with finding new workers.

Community Outreach Director for Wisconsin EMS Association Fred Hornby says non-emergency calls are also up among people aged 65 and older.

"EMTs are getting older the needs of the community are getting greater and right now they can't fill those needs," said Hornby.

Wisconsin EMS Association reports the number of calls is 70 percent medical and 30 percent trauma. 

As calls increase, the number of EMTs at several departments are not, in fact, some are decreasing.

"It becomes a struggle when you're running a very volunteer basis in a smaller basis and recruiting and retention and getting people to stay on the service and availability," said Rhonda Baliff, a former EMT in Cassville, says a big reason for low recruitment has to do with the time commitment. "The schooling and the time spent to learn to be an EMT and also the time to serve as an EMT can be a struggle."

Workers also spent the day pushing for bills that give incentives for volunteers.

"Some tax incentives, very very small stipends, but it will be something to encourage to volunteer and help in their community," said Hornby.

Wednesday's EMS Day the Capital is just the first step in a continuous effort to educate lawmakers on the issues facing the EMS community across the state. 

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