Senate enacts Sen. Curry bill to help EMS departments across Maine
AUGUSTA – On Monday, the Maine Senate enacted a bill from Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, to help support EMS departments across the state. LD 1859, “An Act to Establish the Maine Emergency Medical Services Community Grant Program,” received unanimous, bipartisan support.
“Mainers across the state rely on EMS workers during some of our most challenging moments, but for too long these departments, especially EMS departments in small communities like many in Waldo County, have struggled,” said Sen. Curry. “This bill will give them more tools so they can think and plan strategically about how to sustain their operations for the long-term. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new program will benefit our communities, and I’m grateful for everyone who worked hard to support this bill.”
“I have heard from municipal leaders from across my district about the dire need to improve Maine’s EMS system,” said Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk. “While this bill won’t fix everything at once, it is one step in the right direction toward solving this problem. We need to ensure communities across the state have equal, quality access to emergency medical services.”
Fewer than 70 of Maine’s 272 EMS departments are paid and full-time. One problem facing many of 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.
LD 1859 would establish a grant program that communities could obtain funding from in order 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 alongside local service providers and community stakeholders to learn the agency’s strengths, challenges and prospects for long term sustainability. The group then presents that information to the larger community so that community members have a clear understanding of current capacity and future threats. Finally, facilitators present detailed options for how the community can continue to meet its EMS needs at the level it desires. This model has been applied to EMS departments in Franklin County, St. George, Jackman and the Camden area to date. LD 1859 will allow more towns or regions to engage in long-term sustainability planning.
“Maine EMS has testified multiple times in front of this committee regarding the importance of communities conducting a needs-based assessment prior to creating an emergency medical services agency,” said Sam Hurley, the Director of Maine Emergency Medical Services, in testimony supporting LD 1859. “We believe that this bill is a great first step in empowering communities to engage in informed community self-determination.”
“The amended bill before you will make significant strides in helping struggling municipalities develop a plan that meets the emergency needs of those communities without putting an excessive (and often surprising) burden on taxpayers,” said Jay Bradshaw, the Executive Director of the Maine Ambulance Association in testimony supporting LD 1859. “We are pleased to offer our full support to this bill as amended and ask you to do the same.”
LD 1859 now goes to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to either sign it into law, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.