Wisconsin Health News
February 16, 2022
Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday he’s investing around $27 million to support emergency medical services providers and $25 million in mental health initiatives for schools, the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin National Guard.
There are nearly 800 emergency medical service providers in the state, with more than half either operated by volunteers or a combination of volunteers and paid staff, Evers said in his State of the State address. Finding new volunteers has been difficult, he said, noting that state aid to local governments fell over the past decade as costs increased.
“Some have even gone without ambulance services, left with no other option but to hope and rely upon neighboring providers,” Evers said. “No one should be calling for an ambulance and have to wonder whether help will come.”
Around $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act money will head to rural Wisconsin to increase staffing support, get first responders more training and help purchase ambulances, medical equipment and supplies.
Evers' administration will also fund a 16 percent Medicaid rate increase for private and municipal ambulance services for emergency medical transportation, around $7.4 million in state and federal funds.
“This announcement and investment will be a tremendous help for EMS in Wisconsin, especially our rural and smaller services,” Alan DeYoung, Wisconsin
EMS Association executive director, said in a statement.
Evers also said he’ll invest $15 million to support additional mental health services in schools. Schools will be able to use the money to provide mental healthcare, hire and support mental health navigators, provide training and offer family assistance programs.
He’ll give $5 million to the University of Wisconsin System to provide mental health services through telehealth and additional mental health staff. And he’ll put $5 million toward expanding access to mental health supports for Wisconsin National Guard members.
Evers will also establish a Blue Ribbon Commission on Veteran Opportunity to make recommendations for his next budget. That could include mental health and substance use treatment investments, he said.
And he’ll sign an executive order on Wednesday calling for a special session to take up his plan to spend part of the state’s anticipated $3.8 billion surplus by the end of the 2021-23 biennium, including providing $100 million in tax relief to family caregivers.
In response, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, criticized Evers for his stay-at-home order at the beginning of the pandemic, saying the governor deemed “hundreds of Main Street employers ‘non-essential’” and “devastated our small business community.”
“Now, Tony Evers’ COVID response centers on handing out giant, cardboard checks using the federal tax dollars, which are borrowed against our kids and grandkids’ futures,” LeMahieu said. “He promised to ‘get the money out the door’ as quickly as possible. But, now nine months later, he still has nearly $1 billion left in his Madison bank account.”
LeMahieu called on the governor to sign into law a series of initiatives aimed at getting more people into the state’s workforce.
They include a measure that would prohibit automatic renewal for Medicaid and require eligibility to be determined every six months, rather than every year. A separate bill would bar some BadgerCare recipients from declining work for the sole reason of continuing eligibility for the program.