Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills on Tuesday that aim to improve the reporting and treatment of mental health for firefighters and peace officers. Citing the high-stress and traumatic nature of first responder jobs, Newsom said California needs to ensure they receive adequate care.
The bills focus on improving resources and protections for firefighters who want to report mental health issues by creating a peer support program as well as including post-traumatic stress as an injury when dealing with workers’ compensation.
“They can experience high-stress situations and traumatic incidents that can push them to the limit both physically and mentally, and we need to recognize and take those challenges head on,” Governor Newsom said.
Assembly Bill 1116 establishes statewide standards for local and regional peer support and crisis referral programs for firefighters. The program would provide a network of available peers who can discuss emotional or professional issues. The new programs can address an array of issues including substance abuse, grief support and workplace issues.
“Today we offer a life-line to these brave women and men who might otherwise suffer in silence,” said the bill's author Assemblymember Grayson of Concord.
Also signed Tuesday, Senate Bill 542 will allow firefighters and peace officers to include post-traumatic stress as an injury when requesting and receiving workers’ compensation. The bill will only allow the inclusion of injuries that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2020 until 2025.
This comes after the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a program that would provide free and confidential mental health services to San Diego’s first responders. First responders would be able to contact a licensed clinical professional for mental health help.
"First responders across San Diego County in the midst of a mental health crisis will be able to quickly access clinician assistance confidentially without the barriers that today are preventing them from getting the help they need," Fletcher said in a previous statement.
A third bill unrelated to mental health, SB 438, will prohibit an agency from outsourcing emergency dispatch services to any private company.
If you or someone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.