New Legislation Introduced by Kelles and Hinchey Will Address Shortages in Rural EMS Services

Albany, NY — New legislation introduced by Assemblymember Anna Kelles (A9164) and Senator Michelle Hinchey (S8189A) will address the crisis facing our Statewide EMS service system.

Emergency Medical Services have evolved over many decades from a rescue function of fire departments into the frontline of emergency health care. Technology has made it possible for ambulances to serve as mobile emergency rooms, providing critical pre-hospital care, and especially in the case of stroke and heart attacks, access to EMS service is a prime determining factor in a patient’s chances of survival. This is particularly true in rural areas which have far greater distances between patients and hospitals, thus heightening the importance of critical care provided by ambulance services and incurring higher costs. In locations where access to physicians, hospitals and clinics is difficult, first line responders may be the only available health care. Investing in these EMS responders is an investment in urgent care for all New Yorkers.

For municipalities that either operate EMS Departments or contract for service with those that do, this legislation will bring much-needed support, relieving local governments from the ongoing financial strain of providing EMS service, which continues to far outpace inflation and the growing pressure to cover increasing territories where volunteer services are declining.

“Emergency Medical Services are critical to saving lives and providing medical care to people across the state, especially in rural areas where access to hospitals and routine doctor’s visits may be hours away” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. “But the costs of providing this essential service is unsustainable for local governments, especially in remote communities with a lower population density, that incur higher costs per mile. I have introduced essential legislation (A9164) to provide a stable funding stream for non-profit emergency medical services, and to reduce the local tax burden while saving lives.”

Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Our emergency medical services are the frontline of healthcare in communities across the state, providing the safety net that people in medically-underserved communities rely on. Many, however, have been pushed to the breaking point with compounding issues, from the lack of steady funding to workforce and geographic challenges, and it is incumbent upon us as a state to elevate real solutions that will keep this lifesaving healthcare service available where it is needed most —serving rural communities. Creating a steady funding stream will be a crucial step forward to meeting the needs of our rural EMS providers, and I’m proud to champion it in the legislature alongside my colleague Assemblymember Anna Kelles.”

“For the first time we have elected officials in Albany who understand that EMS is Healthcare,” said Village of Trumansburg Mayor Rordan Hart. “Assemblymember Kelles and Senator Hinchey “get it” and their legislation provides a real-world solution to the real-world issues facing rural ambulance services. It would cost a tiny fraction of the State’s budget but would have a monumental impact on the ability to sustain rural EMS.”

New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Executive Director Stephen Acquario said, “All across our state, particularly in rural communities, EMS services are facing a dual crisis of underfunding and understaffing. Years of underinvestment, burnout from the opioid crisis and COVID pandemic, and difficulty recruiting volunteers have driven up wait times and driven down the reliability of this life saving system. We commend Senator Hinchey and Assemblywoman Kelles for working with local governments to craft legislation that will create a stable funding mechanism for EMS modeled on the successful CHIPS highway funding program and help ensure New Yorkers have access to these lifesaving services when and where they need them.”

We have relied across the state for too long on volunteer-based systems and, in more densely populated areas, private companies. In her 2022 State of the State address, Governor Hochul recognized the need and the importance of EMS, and included the following in her presentation:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the critical need for the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workforce to be nimble and ready to respond to public health emergencies. Based on lessons learned during the pandemic, Governor Hochul has a plan to modernize New York’s EMS system and workforce. Core initiatives include:

  • Developing statewide treatment protocols across EMS agencies for basic and advanced life support by a single statewide council.
  • Creating a coordinated statewide EMS emergency response system.
  • Attracting a new generation of EMS providers through new EMS educational opportunities that foster professional growth and increase the overall number of EMS personnel.
  • Updating the definition of “emergency medical services” to include new models of health care delivery such as community paramedicine, which permits EMTs to provide health services where access to physicians, clinics, and/or hospitals may be difficult.

An investment in our frontline responders is an investment in urgent care for all New Yorkers.”

For the Governor’s proposals to be effective, and for the existing network of EMS agencies to survive, State aid is needed. This new legislation will implement State aid for Emergency Medical Services modeled after the long-standing, and highly successful Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). Established in 1981, CHIPS provides direct funding to local municipalities for road maintenance based on a formula which loosely approximates a percentage of the relative number of roadway miles under a municipality’s jurisdiction.