Unicoi County debuts its own new ambulance service after more than a year of sharing service

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UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – More than a year’s worth of planning is now put to work, as Unicoi County’s own home-grown ambulance service is in full service.

With the adoption of it’s own ambulance service, Unicoi County is now one giant step closer to providing crucial care for everyone who lives here.

It’s been a long time coming as Unicoi County’s own newly created county ambulance service rolls out Monday, August 24.

“It’s just a big relief, but at the same time I think it’s one of the biggest things we have accomplished since I have been in office as county mayor,” said County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely.

Talks to form their own ambulance service began after Medic One, the company that previously provided ambulance service for Unicoi County, abruptly backed out of a new contract in April 2019.

Shocked, Unicoi County leaders partnered with Washington County EMS to get the job done for a year.

“Response times, we’ve seen those improve over the last 12 months as Adam Copas is our new director and as he started running the service, he was running it from Washington County, now he will be our new director,” Evely said.

“We think there is a bright future for Unicoi County EMS,” Director Adam Copas said. “We feel like there is going to be long-term stability which is something they have not necessarily had as far as pre-hospital care for several years.”

Now, two full-time ambulances are running 24/7 in Unicoi County and a third as needed.

“We are at full staff starting out, which is hard to believe. Everybody has a shortage of staff in ems and it’s hard to keep a full staff,” Evely said.

“Regardless of what day of the week it is, or what holiday it might be, we are going to provide 24/7 ALS coverage to the citizens all the time,” Copas said. “Which has not always been a guarantee for them.”

Copas says the county and the towns of Erwin and Unicoi coming together to establish this service have been crucial.

“We all take 100% ownership at it’s success and 100% ownership at it’s failures,” Copas said. “But we don’t see failure in the future we see 100% success.”

Serving rural counties comes with specific challenges, as they are so spread out.

Mayor Evely says the command station at the old hospital is equal distance from the north and south end of the county, but an addition could be approved.

“Somewhere down the line in the future, we may have a substation located maybe on the north end or something and that would even further enhance the response times,” Evely said.

Mayor Evely said though this has been a long time coming, the work is just starting. They will be monitoring the service moving forward and making sure everything is up to par and running properly.

Mayor Evely added that they are grateful to Washington County for helping fill the gap in the past year until they could get this service up and running.

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