Sen. Durbin urges Illinois’ rural EMS agencies to apply for grants

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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced Tuesday that federal grant funding through the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs (SIREN) Act is available for rural fire and emergency medical service agencies.

The funding supports EMS agencies for everything from training and recruiting staff to conducting certification courses to purchasing equipment ranging from naloxone and first aid kits to power stretchers or ambulances.

Signed into law in 2018 as part of the Farm Bill, this will be the second year of funding through the program.

Durbin said he was able to secure an additional $500,000 million for the bill as part of the Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, for a total of $5.5. million for SIREN Act grants.

“In many small and rural towns in Illinois and across the country, rural fire and EMS agencies are a lifeline in their communities, yet many lack steady funding to support their operations. Our EMS professionals are on the frontlines caring for Illinoisans as we fight this pandemic, and this grant program can support their work across our state as they help save lives and keep their communities protected,” Durbin said.

Rural EMS agencies are negatively impacted by a decline in primary care and hospital service availability, large distances between health care facilities, and low insurance reimbursement rates. Additionally, EMS agencies are tasked with more responsibilities from addressing the COVID-19 pandemic to preparing for natural and manmade disasters and bioterror threats to addressing the needs of a sick and aging population to responding to those engulfed in the opioid epidemic. First responders are often the only health care providers in their area, Durbin’s office said, and they often face difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff and securing equipment.

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