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The funding is the last part of a multi-million dollar initiative geared to EMS in South Dakota and around the country. The state Department of Health says it’s critical that all EMS services reach out for assistance in applying if needed.

$20M: “This Won’t Happen Again. Not In My Lifetime.”

PIERRE, S.D. –  Local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in South Dakota have an extremely rare opportunity to apply for $7.5 million in grant money (part of a larger $20 million grant program) before it expires – for developing and implementing systems and solutions to support the sustainability of these critical services.  

KXLG News interviewed South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Melissa Magstadt to learn more.

“The first funding initiative (part of the total $20 million available) was called “Telemedicine in Motion,” a program that paid for the installation and use of hard-wired cameras, speakers and microphones in the back of ambulances, allowing our ambulance services to connect with providers while in transit,” explained Magstadt.  “We have 101 services using that platform.” The second initiative was replacing all the life pack monitors that have been replaced in over 300 ambulance services.”

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The third initiative is grant funding opportunities for EMS.

“Over 2023, we took eight months to do a thorough and deep assessment of EMS services; what is the landscape like today in EMS services in South Dakota?” shared Magstadt. “We did 400 interviews, talked to 911 dispatch across the state, talked with ambulance personnel and with all seven ambulance districts in the state. We pooled an enormous amount of data to put the report together that is on our website.  However, we didn’t just do a report and assessment just to have done it.  It’s actually the foundation that brings us to where we are now –  the release of $7.5M in grant funding.”

The state realized there are several uses for the grant funds.

“Maybe for the purpose of shoring up their workforce, maybe buying equipment to support the workforce, maybe its technology support,  maybe its a consultant to help you learn what key levers could be used to help support EMS services in the local regions,” said Magstadt.

She continued, “This $7.5 million needs to be obligated (not spent, but obligated) by November 2024. It needs to be spent by November 2025.  If we don’t spend these dollars doing these critical pieces of investing in local EMS services, those dollars will be diverted back to somewhere else and spent in other areas. It is critical our local EMS take the opportunity.”

Most EMS is volunteer-operated and not well versed in application grant writing, but Secretary Magstadt says their office will help.

“This is where our office can give you a hand. We have simplified the grant process. We have suggestions for what you can use the dollars for.  We don’t want any EMS service to feel like they will miss out because they don’t have a grant writer available,” she said.

She added, “This is a one-time funding piece.  Probably the first time in history that $20M has ever been invested in EMS services and probably will never happen again, at least not in my lifetime.”

Much of South Dakota is rural and may lack specific equipment and funds to assist volunteers with training or certification to become a volunteer EMS. The funds can be used for several EMS support solutions.

“You can use it help support adding workforce with funds for training and testing, said Magstadt. She added, “The other things we noticed in this assessment is that we spend very little time in recruitment and retention for EMS providers.  You hear a lot about recruiting and retaining nurses and doctors but we don’t talk a lot about recruiting and retaining EMS providers. ”

She continued,  “Part of the work in our office in the Department of Health will be to really start to focus on recruitment, retention and inspiration for the next generation to serve in the profession of EMS- whether that’s a paid or volunteer role.”

The grant funds must be “obligated” by November 2024 and “spent” by November 2025.

For more information, check out the link attached to the South Dakota Department of Health article.

Applications are due March 15, 2024.

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