Texas congressional candidate becomes 1st in state history to pledge to join EMS Caucus
Republican Elianor Vessali of Texas' 17th Congressional District paused her campaign activities to ride along with local EMS providers
By Laura French
TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — Elianor Vessali, a Republican candidate for Texas’ 17th Congressional District (TX17) became the first Texas congressional candidate in state history to promise participation in the Congressional EMS Caucus upon election.
“I had the opportunity to do a ride-along with medics Daniel Owens and Andre Thompson, and I saw an opportunity to serve my constituents upon learning about the EMS complications related to the 17th Congressional District,” said Vessali, according to the Association of Texas EMS Professionals.
“This is why, if elected, I intend to join the Congressional EMS Caucus. I have been on the record that I consider myself a public servant, not a politician,” she said.
The Congressional EMS Caucus is a bipartisan caucus educating decision-makers about federal EMS policy.
“The role of EMS is evolving beyond 911,” said Daniel Owens, Association of Texas EMS Professionals (ATEMSP) executive director. “Legislators engaged with this process are invaluable assets to their districts, especially in rural communities.”
In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released EMS Agenda 2050, the federal vision for EMS. By 2050, paramedics are expected to perform expanded medical roles in their communities in addition to being emergency responders.
“EMS is considered a key component to reducing future healthcare costs, increasing healthcare access, and promoting injury and illness prevention,” said Owens. “It’s a lot for policymakers to follow, but their decisions determine the future.”
TX17 represents urban and rural communities surrounding Bryan-College Station, Waco, and north Travis County. This representation creates one of the most complex EMS districts in the state.
“TX17 communities deliver EMS through fire departments, hospitals, nonprofit agencies, private companies, and county or city governments,” said Owens. “If legislators don’t understand this diversity, it’s difficult to create policy representing their constituents. This impacts everything from first responder mental health to rural EMS grant funding.”
Earlier this month, Vessali paused campaign activities to ride out with TX17 medics in Austin and gain a greater understanding of EMS. Vessali participated in 911 calls, learned about EMS delivery models and engaged with medics on a personal level.
“It was great having a congressional candidate running 911 calls with us,” said Owens. “Elianor took time out of her campaign to experience what we do. She showed no hesitation during calls and actively listened during some challenging conversations.”
The ride out created an impression on the greater EMS community.
“It goes a long way to see a leader spend time with their first responders,” said ATEMSP President Brandon Means. “I think it says even more when they take action following that experience.”
If elected, Vessali would be the third Texan to join the Congressional EMS Caucus.
“I’d like to thank ATEMSP for announcing my intention to join the Congressional EMS Caucus, but more importantly, for giving me the opportunity to participate in a ride along,” said Vessali. “It was a learning experience I intend to take with me to Congress. Representatives should always be looking to educate themselves on the various needs of their district.”
Congress currently has 36 pieces of active EMS-related legislation. Surprise billing, first responder suicide, and rural EMS funding are examples of priority issues.