Senate approves Sen. Curry bill to help EMS departments

Sat, 03/26/2022 - 12:30pm

    AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate voted this week in favor of a bill from Senator Chip Curry, D-Belfast, that would help support EMS departments across the state.

    An amended version of the bill, LD 1859, “An Act To Build More Sustainable Ambulance Services in Communities,” received unanimous, bipartisan support.

    “I’m so grateful to my colleagues for supporting this important legislation,” said. Sen. Curry. “Our EMS departments are essential for public health and safety. They have been pushed to the edge between suffering funding and staffing shortages and a healthcare system not designed for emergency medical response.”

    As it currently stands, of the 272 EMS departments in Maine, fewer than 70 are paid and full-time. Part of the problem facing so many EMS departments is a workforce shortage. According to Maine EMS, Maine has lost nearly 1,500 EMTs and paramedics since 2013, which is over 20 percent of that workforce. Simultaneously, the average number of calls each year continues to rise, with over 22,000 in 2021.

    Sen. Curry introduced an amendment that would change the title of the bill to “An Act to Establish the Maine Emergency Medical Services Community Grant Program,” which passed in committee.

    LD 1859, as amended, would set up a fund for communities to apply for grants to engage in a structured strategic planning process to consider current and alternative models for providing emergency medical services.

    This process, called Informed Community Self-Determination, or ICSD, begins with Maine experts in rural EMS delivery working with local service providers and community stakeholders to learn the agency’s strengths, challenges and prospects for long term sustainability.

    The next step in the process is to present that information to the community broadly so that community members have a clear understanding of their current capacity and future threats.

    Lastly, the facilitators will present detailed options for how the community can continue to meet its EMS needs at the level it desires.

    This model has already been applied to EMS departments in Franklin County, St. George, Jackman and the Camden area to date. This bill will allow more towns or regions to engage in long-term sustainability planning.

    “The State of Maine and municipal governments can use this opportunity to come together, collaborate and make our EMS system sustainable, especially in our rural communities, to figure out what will work best for the longevity of our EMS departments,” said Sen. Curry. 

    LD 1859 faces a final enactment vote in the Senate.