Durbin Brings Nauvoo Paramedic To Rural Summit, Discusses Support For Rural EMS Agencies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Mark Kennedy, a Critical Care Transport Service Paramedic for the Fire Protection District in Nauvoo, Illinois, to discuss how to address rural health challenges.  Mr. Kennedy worked closely with Durbin to craft the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act, a bipartisan bill that reauthorizes a federal grant program at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to directly support public and non-profit rural EMS agencies in their efforts to train and recruit staff, provide education, and purchase equipment.  Durbin’s SIREN Act passed the Senate in June as part of the Farm Bill. 

Mr. Kennedy was invited as Durbin’s guest for Thursday’s Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) Rural Summit. A photo with Durbin and Mr. Kennedy is available here.

“In communities in Illinois and across the country, rural EMS agencies are on the front lines responding to the opioid epidemic and treating the emergency needs of an aging population.  When Mark contacted me months ago, we talked about how we could solve the issues rural EMS agencies in Illinois face, such as a shrinking workforce, geographic difficulties, and funding strains on operations and training.  We got to work and came up with the SIREN Act, a bill that will support the life-saving work these rural EMS agencies are tasked with on a daily basis.  I’m glad the SIREN Act passed the Senate, and I’m pleased Mark will be here this week to share his experiences with my Senate colleagues.”

On June 28, the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, which included a SIREN Act amendment by Durbin and Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), and cosponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).   

A recent decline in primary care and hospital service availability, great distances between health care facilities, and low insurance reimbursement for transport and emergency treatment have all strained rural EMS agencies.  At the same time, EMS agencies today are tasked with ever-greater responsibilities—preparing for natural and manmade disasters and bioterror threats, supporting the chronic and emergency care needs of an aging population, and responding on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.  These first responders are often the only health care providers in their area and face difficulty in personnel recruitment and retention, and securing expensive equipment.  In Illinois, up to 500 distinct rural EMS agencies would be eligible to apply for federal grant funding under the SIREN Act

The SIREN Act is supported by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Association of Counties, National Association of Towns and Townships, National Volunteer Fire Council, and Congressional Fire Services Institute.