From Augusta

State Blue Ribbon Commission issues final recommendations for improving EMS

Fri, 01/13/2023 - 8:15pm

    AUGUSTA — Maine’s Blue Ribbon Commission on EMS released its final report Jan. 12 to the Legislature, detailing recommendations for improving emergency medical services in Maine.

    Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, co-chaired the commission with House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland.

    Recommendations from the report include:

    Allocating $70 million per year for the next five years to support to fund the delivery of EMS services in the state, which includes:

    • An initial allocation of $25 million to specifically target emergency medical services that involve transporting patients, such as ambulance services, that are at immediate risk of failing and leaving their service area without access to adequate emergency medical care;

    • $6 million per year for the next five years for services that do not involve transporting patients, such as providing medical treatment on scene, providing medical standby services at events, or performing medical evaluations in non-emergency situations.

    Exploring options for providing access to benefits for staff of non-municipal, nonprofit licensed EMS services.

    Fully fund the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) — this program rewards firefighters and emergency medical services personnel for their dedicated service to their communities in the State of Maine by contributing to their retirement program.

    Convene a stakeholder workgroup to explore EMS career pathways and educational opportunities.

    Explore options to address the disparity created by licensure requirements for community paramedics.

    Recognizing the need to keep working on this vital issue, the commission also recommended reestablishing the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Emergency Medical Services in the State.

    Last session, the Maine Legislature passed LD 1988, which established the Blue Ribbon Commission on EMS to review the EMS system and recommend improvements to address issues, including funding, staffing, training, governance and more. The Commission was tasked with submitting a report of its findings to the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

    Sen. Curry has already submitted legislation for this session to fully fund LOSAP and to create a stakeholder workgroup to explore EMS career pathways. In addition, Speaker Talbot Ross has introduced a bill that will reestablish the Blue Ribbon Commission to build upon the work of the first Commission.

    The same law establishing the Commission also declared that EMS is an essential service in Maine.

    “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the folks who respond when 911 is called. Our first responders ought to be treated with respect and given the backing of a health care system that ensures they are paid fairly and have access to the education, equipment, and resources needed to deliver the vital services we depend on,” said Sen. Curry, in a news release. “We heard from rural, urban, coastal and island communities struggling to provide this essential service. We listened to the professionals, from EMTs treating patients daily to administrators, with insight into the financial hurdles of our EMS departments. The commission’s recommendations are a result of the hard work and expertise of local EMS professionals and leaders who shared their experiences and innovative ideas with us. I look forward to working with my fellow legislators to implement these recommendations and create a better path forward for Maine’s EMS system.”

    “Access to emergency medical response services across Maine is an essential part of our health care system. In some cases, it’s quite literally a life-or-death situation,” said Speaker Talbot Ross, in a news release. “This Blue Ribbon Commission worked diligently and our final report makes significant and necessary recommendations to improve our EMS services. As Speaker, I look forward to working with the entire Legislature to make those recommendations a reality and improve care for both rural and urban Mainers. Additionally, I’m in full support of the reestablishment of this vital Commission, to ensure these services remain a top priority.”