Durbin, Roberts Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Support Rural EMS Agencies

The SIREN Act would reauthorize $20 million annually in competitive grant funding

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) today introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize a federal grant program that directly supports rural emergency medical services (EMS) agencies in training and recruiting staff, conducting courses to satisfy certification requirements, and purchasing equipment—for everything from naloxone and first aid kits, to power stretchers or new ambulances.  The Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act would reauthorize $20 million annually in competitive grant funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to be made available for public, tribal, and private non-profit agencies in rural communities nationwide. 

“In many rural communities in Illinois and across the country, rural EMS agencies are on the front lines in delivering quality emergency response, service coordination, and patient care.  From responding to the opioid epidemic to treating the emergency needs of an aging population, rural EMS agencies are being asked to do more but face workforce and geographic challenges in their communities,” said Durbin.  “I’m proud to introduce the SIREN Act with Senator Roberts, which would provide rural EMS agencies with the federal funding that they so desperately need to serve their communities.”

“Rural EMS agencies play a critical role in our country’s first responder and health care systems,” Roberts said.  “This legislation will help ensure that EMS agencies have the staff and equipment they need to fill this role and provide services integral to rural health care.”

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. 

There are very few federal funding mechanisms to meet the evolving needs of rural EMS agencies.  While some regional EMS systems receive federal funding through block grants from the Departments of Health and Human Services or Homeland Security, too often that funding does not make it to EMS agencies on the ground.  In Illinois, up to 500 distinct rural EMS agencies would be eligible to apply for federal grant funding under the SIREN Act

Along with Durbin and Roberts, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) cosponsored the SIREN Act.

The SIREN Act is supported by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.