Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs bill in Springfield that will help first responders get mental health treatment

New law will provide workers compensation for first responders with PTSD and allow them to get...
New law will provide workers compensation for first responders with PTSD and allow them to get money through a voluntary benefits pool to help pay for mental health treatment.(KY3)
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 6:21 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - While we may get a glimpse of them as we drive by a wreck, crime scene, or fire location, it’s hard for most of us to appreciate just how emotionally challenging a first responder’s job is as the traumatizing and anxious moments can lead to depression, insomnia, and many other distressing conditions.

“I’ll go through my week and do a thousand normal calls, and then without any warning, I may have to see something traumatic that sticks with me or that I have a hard time emotionally handling,” said Mercy Paramedic Field Supervisor Nicolas Perkins.

Providing more mental health resources for first responders is one of the goals of Missouri Senate Bill 24, which Governor Mike Parson talked about during a ceremonial signing on Thursday at Springfield’s Fire Station #13. The bill’s sponsor, Springfield State Senator Lincoln Hough, was also in attendance.

When it comes to being a first responder, Governor Parson has first-hand knowledge.

“From being a sheriff working homicide, seeing all the things I’ve seen in my career, they do all the things that none of us want to do,” Parson said. “But there are effects to that when it comes to mental health in their lifestyle and what it does to them. So to be able to sign this bill and make sure those people know that the vast majority of Missourians support what they do every day shows we care about them. We care that they’ve got to go home at some point and deal with all the issues they have.”

“Folks that show up on the scene of a car accident, folks that hold an infant who’s struggling to breathe, these are work-related issues,” Hough added about the emotional toll on first responders. “So this is all about taking care of folks who we depend on to take care of us.”

The bill, which covers all first responders, including 911 operators, would provide workers’ compensation for first responders with PTSD and allow first responders access to a voluntary benefits pool to help pay for mental health treatment up to $10,000.

“That’s a small price to pay for what they do day in and day out,” Gov. Parson said.

That $7 million pool already benefits firefighters who have gotten job-related cancer.

“Our two biggest concerns would be cancer and PTSD,” said Demetris Alfred, the President of the Missouri State Council of Firefighters, who also attended the signing. “Cancer has taken the lead because here lately, we’ve found out what our gear is doing to us with the ‘forever chemicals.’ So the more we learn, the more serious this becomes.”

“When folks have traumas like that in their lives, and it takes them out of those roles they serve in the community, it hurts everyone,” Hough said. “So it’s a broad approach to hopefully get them the health and support they need.”

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