By Samantha Hilker, PAAW
On November 1, 2017 EMS providers of all backgrounds and service levels gathered at the Capitol to learn about the legislative process as well as the current bills and initiatives impacting EMS; the afternoon would be spent meeting with the Representatives and Senators for their political districts to discuss Community EMS (CEMS), EMS volunteer incentives, 911 Dispatcher-assisted bystander CPR, and levy limits on EMS services.
As the attendees arrived and started filing in the room, the mood was light – full of laughter, the chatter of catching up with old friends and making new ones. A subtle excitement filled the room as John Eich, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health, started the program by highlighting the important work and unprecedented collaboration of all four organizations in the room: Professional Ambulance Association of Wisconsin (PAAW), Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW), Wisconsin EMS Association and Wisconsin (WEMSA), and the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association (WSFCA). Representatives Shankland, Loudenbeck and Kolste joined the group for a panel discussion. Each of them have been major supporters of legislation that will help lead EMS into the future including AB-151 (Community EMS) which was unanimously passed by the Assembly earlier this year, and was also unanimously passed by the Senate on October 31st -- and is currently awaiting Governor Walker’s signature. The Representatives took questions from the group and gave direct feedback, answers, and recommendations.
As the morning program concluded, lunch was served and the 105 (yes, 105!) attendees made their way across the street for meetings with their legislators. After a quick pause on the steps for a group photo, the individual meetings with the Representatives and Senators began. Having had the opportunity to sit in on several of the meetings, it was encouraging to see the individual EMS provider shake off any nerves they may have had about meeting with an elected official, and gain confidence as the conversation continued.
“The ability to have face time with the policy makers – to have conversations with them and watch the light bulbs come on as they begin to understand the impact the policies can have on EMS, is invaluable” said Amber Osowski, EMS Coordinator for Portage County.
Feedback from EMS leaders and providers following the day’s events was resoundingly positive. What were the most valuable moments of the day?
- Face time with elected officials
- The opportunity to have a conversation versus listening to a speech or a pitch
- Seeing private EMS, hospital based EMS, 3rd party services, County services, Firefighters, leadership, and clinical providers in one space at one time with the same goals
- These officials truly want to add to their network and hear from us, we should continue with the large effort but also make individual commitments to speak to them more about what matters to us
- The education on the legislative process – walking away with a better understanding of the amount of effort that goes into positive change on a larger scale
More than one attendee reported thinking about seeking out elected officials to discuss items important to EMS on one or more occasions, but admitted they probably wouldn’t have taken the time to do it on their own; some reporting they wouldn’t have known where to start if they had tried to do it on their own.
(Photo insert, Senator Mark Miller, Kristopher Loy and Steve Wunsch during Wisconsin EMS Legislative Day. See more photos https://www.facebook.com/paaw.us/)
Brian Randall, paramedic and one of the 2017 Star of Life recipients shared his thoughts on the day: “I feel a sense of pride. Proud of the fact that we can all put personal agendas aside and come together in common goals that serve the patient. Proud that our collective voice is respected by the Legislators and they actually want to hear what we have to say.”
While the number of attendees equaled roughly one half of one percent of all licensed EMS professionals in the state, attendance far exceeded initial expectations for this inaugural event and sets a goal for coming years. If you’re interested in getting more involved and staying informed, visit www.paaw.us and tune into our bi-weekly EMS Live in Wisconsin podcast where we’re always discussing current events, trends, and initiatives in EMS. Reach out to your representatives and get involved; grab a friend and join us for EMS at the Capitol in 2018!
Interactive map: find your representatives
Current copy of bills / LRB / summary sheets
Cover letter/contact information for collaborating professional associations