The U.S. House of Representatives has successfully passed HR 1480, the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act, a priority piece of legislation for the IAFF. Introduced earlier this year by Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), this legislation addresses the real need for increased mental health resources for fire fighters and emergency medical responders.
“Fire fighters and emergency medical responders deal with traumatic events on the job every day. It is a fact that the toll of these experiences are the direct cause of psychological injuries and problems with behavioral health. Sadly, we have lost some of our sister and brother members to these job-related hazards,” says General President Ed Kelly. “I thank Representative Bera for his strong leadership in tackling the issue of fire fighter mental health head on and for his instrumental role in the passage of the HERO Act. Now we must ensure the HERO Act moves with the same vigor through the Senate to land on the president’s desk.”
A chief component of the bill is the creation of a new grant program to train fire fighters to serve as peer counselors. Peer counseling has a long history of success within the fire and emergency services. Additionally, the HERO Act instructs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop new guidance for fire and EMS departments to educate fire fighters and emergency medical responders on how to better identify and prevent post-traumatic stress. The bill also requires the CDC to develop resources for mental health professionals on the culture of fire departments and evidence-based therapies for mental health issues common to fire fighters. Finally, the legislation would create a database at the CDC to house statistics on the incidence of suicides among public safety officers, providing researchers and policymakers necessary data to better serve the fire service community.
The HERO Act now moves over to the Senate for consideration. The IAFF is actively working to refine the Senate companion bill and we expect it will be introduced by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) in the coming days.