Idaho Senate passes resolution to support EMS coordination plan

GOP senators said measure would grow government bureaucracy and lead to centralization or regionalization of EMS services

By: - February 21, 2023 3:20 pm
Senate Chambers door at the Idaho State Capitol

The Senate Chambers door at the Idaho State Capitol building on Jan. 11, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

This story was originally published on the Idaho Reports blog on Feb. 21, 2023.

The Idaho Senate passed a resolution on Tuesday that directs the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to work on a statewide planning, coordination and funding system for emergency medical services.

Earlier in the morning, the Senate recognized a group of EMS providers who were present in the gallery. Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, sponsored the bill.

“Our EMS people are a great bunch of people. They’re strong, community-minded folks,” Harris said.

The resolution would direct IDHW to continue its EMS Sustainability Task Force, and it encourages the department to draft legislation “that recognizes EMS as an essential service and establishes a statewide EMS planning, coordination, and funding system” for the next legislative session.

Harris referenced a 2021 study from the Office of Performance Evaluations that found insufficient EMS staffing in rural areas means patients face longer wait times and receive a lower standard of care.

Currently, Idaho does not designate EMS as an essential service and therefore is not required to provide state funding. Funding for EMS agencies varies widely between counties.

“This is something we’ve been studying for many, many years,” said. Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland.

The resolution would expend $700,000 in EMS dedicated funds across state fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

GOP senators say centralization of EMS services would grow government bureaucracy

A handful of senators spoke in support of providers but against the resolution, expressing concern it would grow government bureaucracy and lead to centralization or regionalization of EMS services.

“I know how important their work is, but what concerns me about the resolution is it’s an expansion of bureaucracy,” said Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Viola. “I believe the best EMS service is that which is kept funded and managed at the local level and controlled by the people it directly serves.”

Sen. Carl Bjerke, R-Coeur d’Alene, agreed that local control is important, but said the state needs to have a plan in place to address the issue.

“I’m small government minded, but I’m also looking at the future here. We’ve had a huge population increase in the state of Idaho,” Bjerke said.

In closing debate, Harris said the resolution is intended to help stabilize EMS providers and ensure services can stay local.

“We do not want EMS to be a statewide service. We want EMS to be a service statewide,” Harris said.

The concurrent resolution passed the Senate 24-9 and now advances to the House.

Nays (9): Sens. Dan Foreman, R-Viola; Phil Hart, R-Kellog; Scott Herndon, R-Sagle; Brian Lenney, R-Nampa; Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton; Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden; Ben Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene; Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell; Glenneda Zuiderveld, R-Twin Falls. 


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Logan Finney
Logan Finney

Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021, and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since.