As you may have seen, EMS history was made in 2018 when Congress created the first federal grant program to support rural EMS agencies. The SIREN grant, formally known as the Rural EMS Training Grant, is housed within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and was funded at $5 million for this fiscal year. SAMHSA has officially opened the application process and will close the process on March 30. If you’re interested in applying for SIREN funds, please review these materials as well as the official grant announcement.
Who is eligible? The SIREN grant program is open to any licensed EMS agency, including non-transport agencies, which serves a rural community and is a governmental or nonprofit organization. In terms of knowing whether your agency serves a rural community, think about your EMS billing process. If your agency receives either rural or super-rural payments through the Medicare Ambulance Add-On Payment, then you serve a rural community. If your agency does not bill for service, look at Medicare’s National Breakout of Geographic Area Definitions by Zip Code. Try searching for any zip codes in your response area and see if any are classified as rural or super-rural.
Are you registered on SAMHSA’s eRA Commons web portal? Before you start thinking about applying for SIREN funds, begin the registration process now to access eRA Commons. All applications must be submitted through the eRA Commons web portal, and you must have a registered account to use the system. While the SAMHSA staff who maintain the eRA Commons website tries to approve new users as fast as possible, it can take up to six weeks to receive approval. Since the application window closes on March 30, start the eRA Commons registration process today. You can always work on your narrative and other application materials while waiting to be granted access to eRA Commons.
SAMHSA has made a frequently asked questions document available as well as other technical assistance to guide applicants in creating an eRA Commons account. The eRA Commons portal also maintains a help desk to assist applicants. This desk is staffed during regular business hours.
It is important to note that the eRA Commons system is unique to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since SAMHSA operates a few programs that provide assistance to fire departments, it is unlikely that your agency has an existing eRA Commons account. Do not assume that you have an eRA Commons account because you have received an AFG/SAFER award or an award from a federal agency other than SAMHSA.
After you begin your registration through the eRA Commons system, you also may need to register through the System for Award Management (SAM) and the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS). Registering under both the SAM and DUNS system is required for all federal grant recipients and can be completed in one or two business days. If your fire department has received funding from a federal grant, such as the AFG and SAFER program, you likely already have a DUNS number and SAM account.
SAMHSA maintains a registration checklist (pdf) , which can help guide applicants through the registration process. All potential applicants should review this checklist.
How can SIREN Funds be used? SAMHSA anticipates providing up to $200,000 per award. Through the application process, awardees must describe how they will accomplish the following goals:
- Provide initial and re-certification training for EMS personnel
- Train EMS personnel on caring for patients with mental and substance use disorders during emergency situations
- Acquire EMS equipment
- Obtain naloxone and training EMS personnel on the administration of naloxone.
SIREN funds also may be used to recruit EMS personnel (including volunteers), acquire personal protective equipment, and/or develop new ways to educate EMS providers through technology-enhanced methods. It is important to note that these three final uses are optional and are not mandatory. Applicants may choose to pursue one, two, or all three of these optional goals.
Depending on each application, SIREN awardees may have up to four years to accomplish the goals they identified in their initial application. Periodically, SAMHSA staff will conduct virtual meetings with recipient organizations to ensure they are using SIREN funds appropriately to accomplish their goals. Participation in these virtual meetings is mandatory.
What application materials are required? Applicants for SIREN funding must submit several materials as part of their application:
- Form SF-424: This is the general form that the federal government uses to gather information about your organization when you apply for a grant. Applicants should be able to generate an online version of this form once they are approved to use the eRA Commons system.
- Budget Information Form: Using Form SF-424A, this portion of the application will require agencies to share budgetary information for the categories and components of their application.
- Sample Budget: In addition to Form SF-424A, applicants need to submit a budget justification to describe their anticipated expenses further. SAMHSA included a draft budget justification as Appendix L of the SIREN application. SAMHSA highly recommends that applicants use Appendix L rather than a form of their own creation.
- Project Narrative: This section requires applicants to provide a written description of their project and any supporting documentation. SAMHSA requires that this portion of your application be no longer than ten pages.
- Miscellaneous Attachments: The eRA Commons system allows applicants to submit a variety of supporting documents such as letters of commitment from partner organizations, data collection protocols, and agreement to adhere to SAMHSA guidelines for participant safety (required from all applicants),
- SSA Letter or Public Health System Impact Statement (PHSIS): If an applicant is located in a state with a State Single Point of Contact, they must submit a copy of their application to the SPOC within 60 days after the application deadline (June 29, 2020).
Please refer to the list of SPOCs to determine whether your state has a SPOC. If your state has a SPOC, they can be a source of information in applying for the grant.
If an agency is located in a state without a SPOC, then they must submit a copy of their completed Form SF-424 and project summary to their state’s substance abuse prevention agency. A list of those agencies and their contact information can be found here.
Please make sure to review the full grant announcement (pdf) which SAMHSA has made available online. This document provides much more detailed information on the required forms and a sample application, which may be used as a model for all applicants.
Can I contact SAMHSA with additional questions? The SIREN grant announcement does contain contact information for the SAMHSA staff who are administering the SIREN program. Interested applicants seeking further information can contact the SAMHSA Division of Grants Management by phone (240-276-1213) or by email.
SAMHSA’s launch of the SIREN grant program is an exciting new opportunity for rural fire and EMS organizations. Since there is a short application period for the funds, any prospective applicants are encouraged to begin their registration and application as soon as possible.
Best of luck with your application!
Evan Davis is a strategic manager in the government relations department at the IAFC