Mental health services for police and firefighters now law
9/9/2019, 7:35 p.m.
Illinois firefighters and law enforcement officers will now have a new law in place to help end the mental health stigma in their field. State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) lent her support to House Bill 2766, which will ensure individuals tasked with providing peer support counseling to law enforcement and firefighters are properly trained. The measure was recently signed into law.
"Our police and fire personnel often respond and witness some of the most tragic events that happen in our communities," Bertino-Tarrant said. "The stresses they experience have a huge impact on their physical and mental well-being. It is essential that we provide resources to help them sort through these difficult and trying situations."
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 1 in 4 police officers have thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives. While the National Fire Protection Association reported that empirical data on mental health issues remains scarce, there are suggestions that behavioral health problems among emergency responders may be widespread; studies have found that as many as 37 percent of firefighters may exhibit symptoms of PTSD.
Also, individuals who seek out mental health treatment will be protected under the law without fear of termination or adverse employment action. "We need to work together to end the stigma around mental health issues and increase accessibility to services that our emergency personnel need to stay mentally and physically healthy," Bertino-Tarrant said. "Our police officers and firefighters work day and night to keep us all safe - it's our duty to look out for them."
The new law creates a task force to study recommendations to help reduce the risk of suicide among first responders. House Bill 2766 goes into effect immediately.