Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill to Improve Mental Health Services for First Responders

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133-1053

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 30, 2018

Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill to Improve Mental Health Services for First Responders

BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate took action to ensure confidentiality for first responders when participating in peer support services following critical incidents.

Responding to a critical incident can significantly impact the mental health of the Commonwealth’s firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement officers. Many first responders rely on trained peer support counselors to direct them to mental health support services or offer support as needed. The lack of confidentiality afforded these peer support counselors has complicated their roles, however, and dissuaded some first responders from using this service. Understandably, many first responders fear that they will experience professional adversity if they decide to seek mental help.

“First responders constantly confront high-stress situations,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “I am pleased that the Senate passed this important legislation to ensure these individuals can confidentially receive the mental-health services they need.”

“Police officers, firefighters, and paramedics work under trying circumstances in the best of times, and these critical incidents can greatly increase the dangers associated with mental health” said Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury). “These sensible confidentiality protections will allow our firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers to seek the help they need without fear of stigmatization.

“First responders—the men and women who keep us safe in the most trying of circumstances—work under high levels of stress, and often are left to fend for themselves when it comes to personal mental health care” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill grants those first responders the access they deserve to confidential support, and allows them to seek help without fear of retribution or stigma.”

The legislation that the Senate passed provides that a critical incident stress management team member shall not have to testify or divulge any information obtained during the receipt of critical incident stress or crisis intervention services. The language does provide for limited exemptions, including when a person is in danger of serious bodily harm or death, or if the information indicates the existence of a crime.

“I want to thank Senator Moore and Senator Lovely for getting this bill to where it is right now,” said Chief Thomas M. Griffin, Peabody Police Department. “It is very important for public safety personnel, police, fire and EMS, who are out there every day protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth. It helps me as a chief to support my officers and we’re very happy that Senator Lovely sees the need for this.”

The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously, has now been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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