Joyce, Dingell Introduce SIREN Reauthorization Act to Support EMS Agencies in Rural Communities

Jul 14, 2023
Health Care
Press

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-06) introduced the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Reauthorization Act to extend funding through fiscal year (FY) 2028 for SIREN Act grants to rural fire and EMS agencies nationwide. The funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) goes toward supporting rural EMS agencies in training and recruiting staff, conducting certification courses, and purchasing equipment.  

“In rural communities across Ohio, EMS providers work overtime to protect us. These first responders, many of whom are volunteers, are a lifeline for our community, and we need to ensure they have all the resources necessary to perform their lifesaving efforts,” said Congressman Joyce. “I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside Congresswoman Dingell to combat staffing shortages, upgrade training, and improve access to equipment for rural first responders. When disaster strikes, we must guarantee our heroes are equipped to answer the call.”

“Emergency medical services agencies play a critical role in every community across our country. They respond to all kinds of crises – often risking their own safety – and work around the clock to keep Americans safe. EMS cannot fulfill their important mission without a strong workforce, which is why I am glad to join Rep. Joyce in introducing the SIREN Reauthorization Act. Rural communities have depended on the SIREN program to recruit and train a strong EMS workforce that can address the toughest of challenges, and our legislation will ensure EMS agencies have the support they need to safely respond to the emergencies they face,” said Congresswoman Dingell. 

“The National Rural Health Association applauds Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) for his introduction of the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Reauthorization Act. This important legislation will reauthorize the program through 2028 and modify grant use to train EMS personnel on caring for individuals in a behavioral health crisis. This bill will increase access to EMS care for residents in rural communities,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association. 

“NAEMT applauds Rep. Debbie Dingell and Rep. David Joyce for taking the lead on introducing the SIREN Reauthorization Act in the House. This bill would reauthorize the SIREN Act grants for another five years (2024-2028).  EMS agencies and fire departments across the United States are facing crisis-level challenges in recruiting and retaining personnel and maintaining their operations. Inadequate reimbursements compounded by increased costs of medical supplies, medications, fuel, and continued supply-chain delays in obtaining ambulances and other emergency response vehicles, are crippling even the most well-resourced EMS agencies.  This important legislation will provide much needed funding opportunities to rural EMS agencies and fire departments,” said President of NAEMT, Susan Fisher Bailey, MSEM, NRP. 

“I thank Representatives Joyce and Dingell for introducing legislation today to reauthorize the SIREN grant program,” said Chief Donna Black, EFO, CFO, the President and Board Chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “Rural EMS agencies are dealing with declining budgets and the scourge of opioid addiction. The SIREN grant program provides a lifeline to these agencies with vital funding to develop our rural EMS workforce and purchase basic equipment and medications like Naloxone. I urge the House to pass this bill expeditiously.”

BACKGROUND 

A decline in primary care and hospital service availability, workforce shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, and great distances between health care facilities 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. Complicating matters further is the reality that, according to the National Rural Health Association, over 50% of rural EMS agencies are staffed totally by volunteers, who regularly have to raise their own funds to keep their doors open. According to the Paramedic Foundation, over 60% of EMS Administrators in Ohio reported having an open position that they were unable to fill for over 6 months or more. 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. 

Groups that have endorsed the legislation include: the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, the National Rural Health Association, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the National Fire Protection Association.

Original cosponsors of the SIREN Act include: Representatives Kelly Armstrong (ND-At Large), Mike Carey (OH-15), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Dean Phillips (MN-03), and Carol Miller (WV-01). 

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Senate companion. 

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