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By Alison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
A common problem for emergency medical services throughout the United States has been recruitment and retention for volunteer EMS agencies. The situation is so dire that some EMS agencies have not been able to handle the 911 calls they receive.
As a result, some agencies have had to permanently close their doors. For example, the EMS agency in Orange County, Virginia, permanently closed in 2017, because they were not able to handle their call volume.
Recruitment and Retention Problems in EMS Agencies
This issue isn't isolated to Orange County, Virginia. Many EMS agencies throughout the United States are struggling with recruitment and retention problems.
Solving this policy conundrum is particularly difficult. There are many different perspectives on this situation and public safety and elected officials are working together in an attempt to resolve this national problem.
SIREN Act Legislation Introduced to Improve Volunteers through Grants
A new piece of legislation was introduced in an effort to correct this imbalance. This new legislation, H.R. 5429, the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs Act (SIREN Act), according to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, will work to establish a "grant program for public and non-profit EMS agencies in rural areas, many of which are at the forefront of the opioid epidemic." It will "support the recruitment, retention, education and equipment for EMS personnel, specifically in rural areas."
SIREN Act Discussed during EMS On The Hill Day
On April 11, 2018, emergency medical technicians and paramedics traveled from 37 states around the country to Washington, D.C. They discussed three pieces of legislation and the importance of the EMS Caucus with members of Congress and their staff during the NAEMT-sponsored EMS On The Hill Day. The SIREN Act was heavily discussed and advocated during the day.
Although the SIREN Act will not completely end the recruitment and retention problems that emergency medical service agencies are seeing throughout the country, it is certainly a step in the right direction. The opioid epidemic is a particularly serious issue for public safety agencies throughout the country. With fewer volunteers in volunteer EMS agencies and the opioid epidemic, EMS agencies are at a critical juncture.
More importantly, legislation such as the SIREN Act will provide another avenue of funding for EMS agencies. Funding has traditionally been a serious concern for agencies throughout the country.