SPRINGFIELD – To improve access and availability of crisis mental health care and bolster the emergency medical service workforce, State Senator Ram Villivalam is leading the charge to expand educational opportunities for future paramedics in Illinois.

“Through these changes, community members will not have to worry about whether they can receive the care they deserve when they are in a mental health crisis,” said Villivalam (D-Chicago). “The safety of our communities is vital, and this measure ensures that personnel are equipped and able to respond to emergency situations.”

Currently, ambulance providers are facing an issue where payers do not authorize or reimburse for ambulance services in response to mental health situations. Villivalam’s measure would clarify the definition of clinical observations include medical and mental health observations to better equip ambulance servicers to respond to mental health emergencies and receive reimbursement.

In response to the ongoing shortage of licensed and qualified responders that has caused delays in response times to emergent calls, the measure would also allow an EMS system to provide education outside of their region. Allowing cross-region education aims to expand access to the required classes for national licensure in underserved areas.

Under the legislation, an EMS lead instructor would also be able to oversee an experienced paramedic teaching classes in high schools with the goal of creating more opportunities for future first responders and addressing current staffing shortages. This would allow high school seniors to begin training and receive an emergency medical technician license while still in school.

“No one should have to suffer during any crisis due to workforce shortages or fear of being stuck with a large bill,” said Villivalam. “This measure will support the EMS personnel responding to emergencies on the ground and ensure they have the proper tools to care for people in need.”

House Bill 5085 passed the Senate on Thursday.