(WBRE/WYOU-TV) a study last year found that first responders are more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty. The suicide rate among police, fire, and ems workers continues to rise. Now… some lawmakers are looking to do something about it. Harrisburg Reporter Matt Heckel with the details.
A pair of bills are being introduced to help first responders deal with the trauma they encounter on a daily basis. Supporters say addressing these mental health issues is long overdue.
“You can go from maybe having a massive pileup on the interstate that we have to treat some really critical patients at, and then we’re going to go to a nursing home and treat an older lady who may be toward the end of life. There’s just this whole switch of emotions that take place, that can take a lot of tolls on providers.”
Which is why Nathan Harig, Assistant Chief with Cumberland Goodwill EMS says many first responders deal with mental health issues that can often go ignored by the public.
“Because they only see us when we treat them immediately in the field. They don’t realize that we might go back to a station and we might be carrying very mental, vivid images” Said Harig.
Lawmakers in the state house… now introducing a pair of bills to address those issues.
“The stresses that our first responders face are greater today than ever” Said Rep. Mike Schlossberg, (D) Lehigh County.
One establishes a mental wellness and stress management protocol… giving first responders access to trauma awareness training, peer counseling, and a helpline…. all paid for by increasing a fee on speeding tickets and DUI arrests. the other bill allows first responders to receive workers compensation for p-t-s-d. Nathan believes… this could go a long way in saving the lives of his colleagues.
“Building a statewide structure, breaking down all the stigma, letting people know that these resources are here, is just going to have tons of benefits as we show, as a state, that we want to support ems.”
Some health insurance providers have spoken out against this in the past saying it would increase costs. Both these bills were introduced last session… but failed to make it out of committee