IAFF-Backed HERO Act Reintroduced in the House

March 5, 2021
If passed, the proposed bipartisan legislation would create more resources to better deal with mental health issues among firefighters and other first responders.

A bill designed to increase mental health resources for firefighters and other first responders has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives.

H.R. 1480known as the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act—was sponsored by a bipartisan group of over 30 lawmakers led by Reps. Ami Bera (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), according to the International Association of Fire Fighters, which helped drive the bill. Addressing the mental health and well-being of those in the fire service and EMS community was a priority for the IAFF in 2020, and that is expected to continue this year.    

“Fire fighters and emergency medical responders repeatedly witness human trauma and scenes of devastation over the course of their careers," IAFF PresidentHarold Schaitberger said in a statement. "The cumulative toll of tragic experiences on fire fighters and emergency medical responders can lead to psychological injuries and even suicides. The HERO Act will help ensure emergency responders receive necessary resources to assist in detecting, treating and preventing mental health challenges.”

If passed, the proposed legislation will address mental health issues affecting firefighters and first responders by focusing on the following areas:

  • establishing a new grant program to train firefighters as peer counselors
  • directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create new guidelines for fire departments on identifying and preventing post-traumatic stress disorder
  • allowing the CDC to provide mental health professionals with information on the culture within fire departments and evidence-based therapies to treat psychological issues common to firefighters
  • creating a database containing statistics on suicide among public safety officers

House lawmakers had initially passed the bill during last year's 116th Congress, but the session ended before the Senate could vote on it. Now, the Senate's companion legislation, which is sponsored by Sen. Jackie Rosen (D-NV), is set to be reintroduced soon.

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