In Central Illinois, Durbin Touts Legislation that will Support Rural EMS Agencies

Durbin’s bipartisan SIREN Act passed the Senate in June, would provide competitive grant funding for rural EMS needs


FLANAGAN – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined officials at the Flanagan-Graymont Fire Protection District to discuss his bipartisan legislation, Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act, which would 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 Flanagan-Graymont Fire Protection District, which has faced financial challenges in serving its rural community, would be among many rural EMS agencies that would be eligible to apply for federal grant funding under the SIREN Act


“In many small towns and rural areas in Illinois and across the country, rural EMS agencies are the backbone of the community, and are on the front lines in delivering quality emergency response services 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.  “The SIREN Act would provide rural EMS agencies with the federal funding that they so desperately need to serve their communities.  I will continue working to get this legislation across the finish line and on the President’s desk.”


Durbin introduced the bipartisan SIREN Act in May along with Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  The bill will provide grant funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for public, tribal, and private non-profit agencies in rural communities nationwide. 


In June, the Senate passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, which included the SIREN Act as a bipartisan amendment by Durbin, Roberts, Stabenow, and Baldwin.  The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 is now before a conference committee where the House and Senate will reconcile the differences of their respective bills.


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. 


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, and National Volunteer Fire Council.