Durbin, Collins Applaud Committee Passage Of SIREN Reauthorization Act

The legislation would continue funding SIREN Act grants to support fire and EMS agencies in rural communities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), today applauded the advancement of their bipartisan SIREN Reauthorization Act out of committee with a 20-1 vote. 

The legislation would extend funding through SIREN Act grants to rural fire and EMS agencies nationwide.  The funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which was created through Durbin’s Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act, goes toward supporting EMS agencies in training and recruiting staff, conducting certification courses, and purchasing equipment.

“In Illinois, rural EMS agencies are a lifeline for their communities.  These first responders are on the front lines, and we must ensure that they have the proper staffing, training, and equipment to address the emergency in front of them,” said Durbin.  “I worked in 2018 to pass the bipartisan SIREN Act to meet the needs of rural EMS agencies as they care for their communities.  And today, I’m pleased that the Senate HELP Committee has recognized the importance of this successful program by advancing the SIREN Reauthorization Act out of Committee.  I’m grateful for Senator Collins’ partnership in making certain that rural EMS agencies continue to have access to the funding they depend on.” 

“Whether it’s an automobile accident, a health crisis, or another catastrophe, EMS responders provide courage, skill, and compassion when they are needed most,” said Collins. “It is vital that Americans who live in rural parts of Maine and across the country have access to these lifesaving medical services, which is why I have long advocated for funding to support access to quality rural health care. By supporting EMS agencies, our legislation would help to alleviate staff shortages, upgrade training and equipment, and ultimately boost response times when seconds count.”

The bipartisan bill was initially signed into law in 2018 as part of the Farm Bill.  Since then, Durbin and Collins have led the appropriations effort to grow the program from $5 million annually to $10.5 million this year.  TheSIREN Act has resulted in new funds to rural EMS/fire agencies in Nauvoo, Amboy, Jerseyville, and Gibson City, Illinois.  

A decline in primary care and hospital service availability, workforce shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, 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.  

The SIREN Reauthorization Act is endorsed by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Rural Health Association, National Volunteer Fire Council, and National Fire Protection Association.