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EMS Community Speaks to Washington

If all goes well, sometime in the next month, officials for the Advocates for EMS organization is hoping to reintroduce a bill designed to solve the needs of field EMS providers.

The legislation will be an updated version of the Walz-Myrick Field EMS Bill, which called for the creation of a $321 million fund to provide grants, research and a framework to improve the stance of EMS, according to lobbyist Lisa Tofil, who’s spearheading the effort.

“What we want to do is have the best bill that we possibly can, moving forward for EMS,” Tofil told attendees at the EMS Today Conference & Exposition in Baltimore. “Our goal is has been to create attention in ways that EMS has not been able to achieve before.”

An earlier version of the bill was introduced at the end of the last legislative session, which never moved forward because of the timing. Since then, Tofil—along with Advocates for EMS—have been gathering information from EMS providers on how to improve the bill before it goes back into the system. The problem is EMS suffers from data problems compared with other industries also pitching politicians for a piece of the federal pie.

“It just doesn’t exist in EMS the way that it does in other areas,” she says.

Another hurdle is the various voices within the EMS community, which don’t always speak the same language.

“When an industry really comes together and is unified in support of legislation, or a position, they are so much more effective,” she says. “That’s been the real challenge for EMS in the past.”

Without a singular message, it’s easier for politicians to avoid an issue and simply label it “controversial.” Lawmakers often have no idea of the issues facing the EMS community, and sometimes it takes explaining on a variety of levels.

“They really don’t know what it means,” she says. “Sometimes you need to explain it to them.”

Funding for the initiatives under the new legislation would be paid through a check-off box on tax returns. Getting that off the ground, though, would require a massive media campaign, because the public doesn’t fully “understand the fragility of the system,” she says.

Without a unified front, Tofil says it will be hard to get anything done on Capitol Hill. Likewise, the push can’t stop in Washington, D.C., either. Those in EMS will need to call and e-mail their lawmakers to show that someone back home cares about a specific issue.

“Sometimes,” she says, “it really is as simple as one e-mail.”

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