As Congress works through the closing weeks of the Lame Duck session, lawmakers recently passed two pieces of legislation that will assist counties in addressing juvenile justice and rural emergency service needs. A reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), a long standing NACo priority, cleared both chambers of Congress on December 13. Additionally, the Supporting and Improving Rural EMS Needs Act (SIREN) was included in the five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill on December 12, and will establish a new grant program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assist rural emergency medical services (EMS). Both bills have been sent to the president’s desk and await his signature.
The reauthorization of JJDPA represents the first reauthorization of the program since 2002, a major win for counties. JJDPA provides federal assistance to counties through funding, research and technical assistance. Counties serve as the principal providers for court and detention services for youth and operate a majority of local health and social service agencies that provide care for juveniles and high-risk youth. The assistance provided through JJDPA supports prevention programs and enables counties to shield youth from the dangers of adult jails.
Additionally, the SIREN Act will drastically improve the capabilities of rural EMS by providing financial assistance to fire and EMS agencies to purchase equipment, obtain medications and provide training to those on the front line of saving lives in their communities. NACo sent a letter to Farm Bill conferees on July 30, emphasizing the necessity of these grants in providing emergency medical services to rural communities, as rural governments and nonprofit fire and EMS organizations routinely face fiscal challenges and limitations in delivering vital pre-hospital care to critically ill and injured patients.
NACo applauds legislators for finalizing these two key pieces of legislation in the final days of the 115th Congress, and counties look forward the president signing both bills into law.