April 7, 2022

Young, Grassley Introduce Bill to Help First Responders Cope with Stresses of Serving Communities in Moments of Crisis

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) along with a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to help police, fire, emergency medical, and 911 personnel cope with the stresses of responding to crisis situations. The Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Act of 2022 would establish mental health programs for America’s first responders who often face long-term effects from providing life-saving services in moments of crisis.

The legislation builds on Senator Young’s previous efforts to support public safety officers. Senator Young was the lead Republican sponsor of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017, which required the Department of Justice (DOJ) to produce a report on how mental health practices implemented by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs might apply to law enforcement. The legislation was signed into lawin January 2018 and DOJ’s reportwas released in March 2019.

Building on that work, the Fighting PTSD Act would require DOJ to develop a program that could administer state-of-the-art PTSD treatments to public safety officers across the country.

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day to ensure the safety and security of Hoosier families. Their work is high-pressure, often resulting in both seen and unseen injuries, and we must provide them with the support they need. This critical legislation would increase the resources available to public safety officers dealing with job-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Increasing this support to our public safety officers will lead to healthier and stronger communities across Indiana and our country,” said Senator Young.

“In times of crisis, we count on first responders and dispatchers to deliver life-saving aid – often at their own exposure to tremendous risk. Beyond the physical scars, this essential service can also take a mental and emotional toll. This bill takes the first step to ensuring that the brave individuals who respond in critical situations have access to mental health services needed to manage stress, stay healthy and continue to serve our communities,” said Senator Grassley.

Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians,and 911 dispatchers routinely encounter high-stress situations, putting them at risk of developing PTSD, which increases the risk of suicide. The Fighting PTSD Actwould require DOJ to establish evidence-based treatment programs for first responders across the country, similar to services available to military personnel who develop PTSD or acute stress disorders. The bill requires DOJ to consult with stakeholders, including public safety officer organizations, in developing the program, which would be available to serve first responders in communities of all sizes across the country.

In addition to Senators Young and Grassley, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

The Fighting PTSD Actis supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Sergeants Benevolent Association NYPD.

The legislation also is supported by numerous Indiana public safety organizations:

Bill Owensby, President of the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police: “It should be no secret to anyone that all of our first responders; Police, Fire, EMT and Dispatchers endure an enormous amount of stressors over their careers. As a result, medical issues, early retirement, and a surprising number of suicides plague the professions-most of it tied to PTSD. Many thanks to Senator Grassley and especially to our own Hoosier Senator Todd Young (and the other authors) in introducing this bill to help develop programs to recognize and treat PTSD in an effort to reduce the damaging effects.”

Rick Snyder, President of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police: “We are grateful for this important continued effort of Senator Young and others to address the seen and unseen injuries of our Law Enforcement Officers, Dispatchers, other frontline public safety providers and their families. So many have given so much in sacrifice for their communities. Now is the time to provide care and comfort for their wellbeing.”

Steve Luce, Executive Director of the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association: “The ISA has dedicated our current training platform to address and heighten the awareness of PTSD and Suicide by implementing Wellness and Resiliency Workshops for our Law Enforcement Officers.  The Fighting PTSD Act of 2022 will allow this serious issue in the Law Enforcement Profession to be addressed properly during the career of a Law Enforcement Professional.  It is extremely important to have resources available for the officer and their families throughout their careers. One Officer Suicide is One too many.”

Matthew A. Myers, Bartholomew County Sheriff: “As law enforcement officers, with boots on the ground, we are dedicated to providing caring and compassionate support. I support this bill 100% and I want to thank Senator Young for showing Hoosiers that he truly cares about each and every one of us.”

Cory Martin, Executive Director at the Indiana State Police Alliance:“As findings state, it is estimated that 30% of public safety officers develop behavioral health conditions at some point in their lifetime. Our members, who are Indiana State Troopers, Motor Carrier Inspectors, and Capitol Police Officers, don’t fall short of this statistic. It is critical that we have the support of our members in Congress. By enacting this legislation, we can ensure swift and proper programming is available, should any of our members need these services. Thank you, Senator Young, for your unwavering support to Indiana’s Law Enforcement community.”

Thomas Hanify, President of the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana:“The PFFUI appreciates the Senator’s efforts in dealing with mental health issues in public safety. In Indiana we have started working on this issue and getting support from the federal government would be a tremendous boost to our efforts. As Firefighters, we are trained to save lives, often at our own peril. The emotional toll being a first responder has long been overlooked, but in recent years we have begun to recognize not only the impact that it has on firefighters, but on their colleagues, families and communities. Thankfully, PTSD is a treatable condition. We commend Senator Young for addressing this critical issue and look forward to working with him to get this passed through Congress.”

John Gullion, President of the Indiana Firefighters Association:“The Indiana Firefighters Association is proud to support Senator Young’s bill that provides our First Responders, nationwide, an avenue to access services to cope with job related mental health issues.”

David Israel, President of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association:“The Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association with our nearly 14,000 members thanks and supports Senator Todd Young with the introduction of legislation to help and care for our members suffering from health conditions including but not limited to mental health and PTSD who are serving or have served in the fire and EMS services.”

Kelly Mitchell, Indiana State Treasurer and Chair of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board:“Public Safety Telecommunicators are front line emergency operators who answer unimaginably difficult 911 calls. Until now, the immense stress of this work has often been overlooked. Thanks to the efforts of Senator Todd Young, additional resources are on the horizon for our unsung heroes. On behalf of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board, we are proud to support the Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act.”

Jason Haddix, President of the Indiana Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association: “Public safety telecommunicators are often left out when thinking about first responders. In fact, they are the first contact someone has in their time of crisis or need. Close your eyes and imagine hearing someone finding a loved one dead – those cries, those screams, that emotion, often don’t go away. Once the telecommunicator hangs up the phone there is often little closure, since outcomes are rarely provided. Once that call is over, they have to be ready for the next one. It could be anything from reports of a horrific car crash, a baby not breathing, or a caller yelling for help as their house is burning down. The Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act of 2022 is a step in the right direction to provide much-needed assistance to all first responders. The Indiana Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association Board of Directors fully support this legislation. It’s time for public safety professionals, who help so many, have easy access to get help for themselves.”

Gary Miller, Executive Director of the Indiana EMS Association:“EMS agencies across Indiana as well as across the Nation work diligently to develop systems to ensure that high-quality, compassionate and life-saving care is provided to their communities. Of course the most important piece of this system is the individual EMS practitioners who are responding to assist people often on the worst day of their lives. The stresses that are inherent when you have someone’s life in your hands is extremely difficult; add to that long-hours, harsh environments, exposure to infectious diseases and all the other factors involved make it extremely difficult to find balance in the provider’s own lives. Just as EMS responds to calls for help everyday, it is great to see that Senator Young and the others are making efforts to provide needed resources when the EMS practitioners place those calls themselves.”

Stephen C. McCaffrey, President and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana:“Mental Health America of Indiana applauds the introduction of the Fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Act of 2022. This legislation provides long overdue recognition that the mental well-being of those who serve people in distress is as important as the well-being of the people being served. The issues to be evaluated and reported on under this bill underscore the importance of support to responders’ family members and the significance of peer support.”