Emerging trends in EMS grants

In 2017, expect substance abuse, mental illness, innovative technology and collaborative solutions to be top trends in EMS grant funding

The top three emerging trends in EMS grants reflect the shift in health care toward value amid political uncertainty. EMS organizations will need to adapt, innovate and build new programs. This is a different approach for EMS providers who are widely seen as transport for emergent and non-emergent patients to the hospital. Here are the top three trends that are expected to be widely funded by government, private and partnership agencies.

1. Substance abuse and mental illness

One in five adults in the United States experience mental illness, costing more than $440 billion each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness [1]. All too often, these patients go to emergency departments via EMS — accounting for an estimated one in eight patients in the emergency department [2]. Emergency departments are not staffed to appropriately handle people with mental health issues that are often coupled with substance abuse issues.

Some health systems are partnering with EMS and local resources to address this problem. Alternative destinations for these patients, such as specialized psychiatric emergency departments or non-profit integrated behavioral health care clinics, can be a solution. In North Carolina, 11 EMS agencies are assisting the community with those in mental health and substance abuse crisis through grants provided by the Division of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substances Abuse Services in collaboration with the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services. There are similar programs in Georgia and Colorado.

With over $68 million allocated by foundations to mental health and substance abuse in 2015, look for more opportunities for EMS to gain grant funds for these projects in 2017 and beyond.

2. Innovative technology

Whether it’s telemedicine or health data exchanges, look for more funds to be allocated to EMS for innovative technology. Both federal and state agencies are pushing for improvements in interoperability between hospitals and EMS and improved care coordination for population health. These improvements are best accomplished by innovative technology utilized by EMS, which has been successful in rural areas where access to care is a challenge.

Innovative technology grant opportunities for EMS are being spearheaded by the USDA Rural Development programs and the Department of Health and Human Services Administration among hundreds of private foundations. In fiscal year 2015, HRSA awarded more than $16 million to improve health care in rural areas [3]. Innovative technology grant funding will continue to rise in 2017. This is a great opportunity for EMS agencies.

3. Collaborate or perish

EMS must find partnerships and collaborate with local agencies to survive through lower reimbursement rates, increased call volume and shrinking budgets. Grant makers want health care entities to utilize their collective resources to reduce redundancy and increase efficiency to improve health care outcomes. As health care systems shift to value-based health care, they will need low cost/high value partnerships that EMS can deliver. EMS agencies should look to partner with affordable care organizations, insurance companies and local health care systems to acquire grants and funding to create high value programs at low costs, such as health literacy education and focused community medicine programs such as diabetes management.  

While the outlook for EMS in 2017 and beyond may be uncertain for some, there is plenty of opportunity for EMS to have a substantial impact on the health care system. EMS has the advantage of low cost operations with high-value impact in addition to the immeasurable value of being a staple of the community. 

1. Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml - See more at: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers#sthash.Nf4hT3bN.dpuf

2. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Mental Health and Substance Abuse-Related Emergency Department Visits among Adults.

3. Health Resources and Services Administration. Rural Grant Awards. 09/09/2016.

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