Politics

Westerman Joins Bipartisan Legislation to Support Rural Emergency Medical Services

PRESS RELEASE: October 3, 2022

WASHINGTON – Congressman  Bruce Westerman (AR-04) joined  fellow House member Andy Kim (NJ-03), Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Cindy Axne (IA-03), Al Lawson (FL-05), Marc Veasey (TX-33), and Mike Carey (OH-15) in introducing the bipartisan Supporting Our First Responders Act to assist rural emergency medical services (EMS) agencies in hiring and retaining qualified personnel, providing training reimbursements, financing facility upgrades, and more.

“Rural Emergency Medical Services providers are critical in countless communities across the country where local hospitals are not easily accessible to those in need of immediate help,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-4).“Rural health care has been neglected for too long. It is essential to ensure that EMS providers are equipped to deliver timely, high-quality care to every area in the United States. I am proud to cosponsor this competitive grant program to ensure those with the most need are provided the means to better serve those in crisis.” 

“EMS responders are there when we need them, often first on the scene, and willing to put their lives and their families’ well-being on the line to help keep our neighbors and loved ones safe during an emergency,” said Rep. Kim (NJ-03). “Despite the glamor portrayed on TV, the day-to-day reality of responding to calls without the equipment and staff they need is a reality rarely seen by people in our community. With our bill, we’re taking steps to support our first responders by making sure they have the resources, staffing, training, equipment, and most importantly the mental and physical healthcare support they need. I’m proud to introduce this bill in a bipartisan way and hope my colleagues in both parties can agree that we need to strengthen our support for the brave EMS workers on the front lines every single day.” 

 “In rural Oklahoma, our EMS providers are often the difference between life and death, and ours are in a crisis,” said Rep. Mullin (OK-02). “Oklahomans cannot simply live without these safety net providers. And with no current federal funding stream for EMS, despite these heroes working day-in on the frontlines, our communities are abandoned. I am proud to support this bill to ensure those in Oklahoma continue to have access to high-quality health care.”
“Rural EMS teams go above and beyond to ensure that folks can get emergency care no matter where they live, and too often, they don’t have the resources necessary to do their jobs,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03). “The Supporting Our First Responders Act will invest in these heroes so they’re able to continue serving our communities, and I’m grateful to join my colleagues in this effort.”

“Ensuring our EMT’s have every resource necessary to serve all communities as safely and effectively as possible is a no-brainer and I’m happy to join my colleagues in bringing forth the Supporting Our First Responders Act,” said Rep. Carey (OH-15). “This legislation will provide our EMS agencies with the ability to improve the lives of EMT’s and the people they help every day.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), especially in rural areas, where access to health care services is minimal. These frontline workers risk their safety to provide a system of strong and coordinated emergency medical services,” said Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05). “The Supporting our First Responders Act is a bipartisan investment to ensure these organizations have access to adequate funding to hire and train the next generation of first responders and to purchase necessary supplies and equipment to provide health care services to all Americans.”

“Since the start of the pandemic, first responders like Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have been on the front lines fighting against the virus and saving lives. These essential front-line workers went above and beyond to ensure public safety. It is time we invest in them and bolster emergency medical services in America,” said Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33). “The Supporting Our First Responders Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that will provide federal support to first responders and help ensure they have access to the supplies and staff they need to better serve our communities.”

Background

In 2021, EMS experienced a turnover rate of 20-30% for full and part-time EMTs and paramedics across the country, which means an organization is forced to replace most staff within four years. These staffing shortages, combined with skyrocketing costs to purchase equipment and fuel, are forcing EMS agencies to make difficult decisions including whether to reduce or even cease operations. As more agencies shut down, remaining agencies are required to cover larger areas, leaving families without immediate assistance in their greatest moment of need, when timing can mean life or death.

37 states do not classify EMS as an essential service. That means local governments are not required to provide these services at all. Unlike fire fighting and police, EMS units do not have wide access to federal and state funding.

The Supporting Our First Responders Act would:Authorize $50 million per year for five years to establish a grant program under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which would allow public, private, and nonprofit EMS agencies that provide medical services to apply for grants to: 

  • Hire, recruit, and retain trained medical personnel
  • Support the well-being of EMS personnel
  • Provide reimbursement for required training
  • Modify existing facilities
  • Purchase new equipment, medication, and vehicles

Authorize $5 million in technical assistance to assist EMS agencies with navigating grant processes.

Require the Secretary of HHS to provide Congress a report detailing the challenges, disparities, and inadequacies in providing federal and private reimbursement for EMS and recommend action.Require the Secretary of HHS to provide Congress a report detailing the challenges specific to rural EMS departments and to nonaffiliated EMS departments, then develop action plans to address those challenges through grants and other administrative action. 


The Supporting Our First Responders Act is endorsed by the National Association of EMTs (NAEMT) and the American Ambulance Association (AAA).

“Communities across the country are struggling to keep their ambulance services operating because of the crisis level workforce shortage,” said Bruce Evans, President of the National Association of EMTs (NAEMT). “Many services have had to close. We appreciate Congressman Kim and other Members of Congress working to address this crisis.” 

“EMS organizations across the U.S. are struggling to hire paramedics and EMTs, and cover the increasing cost of equipment and supplies,” said Shawn Baird, President of the American Ambulance Association. “The Supporting Our First Responders Act by Congressmen Kim, Congressman Mullin, Congresswoman Axne, Congressman Veasey, Congressman Lawson, Congressman Westerman, and Congressman Carey recognizes the vital role that all ground ambulance service organizations play as medical first responders and would provide a critical down payment to grantees to help ensure their communities have access to vital EMS resources”

“Our country’s emergency medical services (EMS) system is facing a crisis that threatens the ability to provide crucial emergency healthcare services in many communities,” said Rob Meriweather, President of Bound Tree Medical.“Bound Tree Medical, a leading nationwide distributor of emergency medical products to EMS, supports the establishment of this federal grant program to give our nation’s EMS infrastructure the support it deserves to address this crisis.”

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