Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today cosponsored bipartisan legislation directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect data on first responder suicides and determine best practices for identifying and treating post-traumatic stress and combating suicide among firefighters and other first responders. Introduced by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act also establishes a grant program for peer-to-peer counseling programs to address mental health challenges for first responders.
“Our nation’s first responders witness some of the most tragic scenes imaginable, and this can lead to PTSD, depression, and suicide. We need to understand the scope of the problem to enact effective prevention measures while also providing first responders with the resources and knowledge they need to take action now. I’ll continue fighting to make sure that our first responders receive the necessary support to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
Bipartisan companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives last year by Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and has over 70 bipartisan co-sponsors.
The bipartisan HERO Act responds to reports that first responders may be at higher risk for suicide and mental illness than other professions by providing for the study and treatment of the mental health challenges that first responders face. Specifically, the bill:
- Directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect data and report to Congress every year on first responder suicide rates;
- Requires HHS to identify risk factors and possible interventions and recommended interventions for further study;
- Establishes grants for peer-to-peer counseling for fire departments and emergency medical services agencies;
- Requires HHS to develop and distribute best practices on the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress among first responders.
In October, Senator Cortez Masto introduced bipartisan legislation to collect voluntary, anonymous data on police suicides and attempted suicides. She recently invited Reno Police Chief Jason Soto to the State of the Union address to highlight the importance of increasing mental health resources for law enforcement officers.