On October 1, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed three bills supporting firefighters and first responders. The bills will increase support for firefighters and first responders who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mental health issues as a result of their work. The bills are:
- AB 1116 – the California Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Act: This will establish statewide standards for peer support groups and representatives who will be available to help first responders with professional or emotional issues.
- SB 542 – the Trauma Treatment Act: This will provide first responders with coverage under workers’ compensation laws as they recover from mental health issues. It will also increase awareness of mental health among first responders, including firefighters, law enforcement and related personnel.
- SB 438 – Prohibits public agencies from outsourcing emergency service dispatch to private, for-profit entities. The exception is when there is a cooperative agreement or joint powers. This bill also clarifies the authority for determining the deployment of emergency services within an agency’s jurisdiction.
Previously, there was little support for mental health among firefighters and first responders. It is recognized that these roles are very rewarding, but also come at a high price. First responders see things and experience things that most people cannot even imagine. It seems far past time for these daily heroes to get the support they need.
Governor Newsom said in a statement that “The job of firefighters and first responders can be very rewarding, but at the same time, extremely unpredictable. 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. These bills are meant to ensure they have access to resources and help in their time of need, in the same way, they assist their communities when they need them most.”