Rosen, Fischer Re-Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Firefighter, First Responder Mental Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) announced the re-introduction of their Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act. This bipartisan legislation would support efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect data on first responder suicides, and direct HHS to develop and compile best practices for identifying and treating post-traumatic stress and combating suicide among firefighters and other first responders. The bill also establishes a grant program for peer-to-peer counseling programs to address mental health challenges for first responders.

“Firefighters and emergency medical responders are heroes who routinely put themselves in harm’s way to keep our communities safe. Unfortunately, these same heroes often face a heavy psychological toll as a result of their jobs, which can lead to increased stress, mental health challenges, and even suicide,” said Senator Rosen. “We must take steps to ensure the well-being of first responders in Nevada and across our nation by providing greater access to mental health resources and support. This important bipartisan legislation will provide greater insight into the challenges that first responders face, help better develop strategies to assist them, and increase the number of counseling resources available to our heroes.”

“Firefighters and first responders risk their lives every day to protect members of their communities,” said Senator Fischer. “Unfortunately, this work can come at a cost of mental health challenges. That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Rosen in reintroducing the HERO Act. This bipartisan bill would expand resources for firefighters and our first responders to help prevent suicides, set up peer-to-peer counseling, and treat posttraumatic stress.”

“Fire fighters and emergency medical responders deal with traumatic events on the job every day. It is a fact that the toll of these experiences directly cause psychological injuries and behavioral health issues. Sadly, we have lost some of our sisters and brothers to these job-related hazards,” said Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “I applaud Senators Rosen and Fischer for their strong leadership on this important mental health issue, and I thank them for introducing the HERO Act.”

BACKGROUND: According to a 2018 report by the Ruderman Family Foundation, more firefighters die from suicide than in the line of duty. The bipartisan HERO Act addresses the fact 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 HERO Act would:

  • Support efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect data and report to Congress biannually on first responder suicide rates;
  • Require HHS to identify risk factors and possible interventions and recommended interventions for further study;
  • Establish grants for peer-to-peer counseling for fire departments and emergency medical services agencies; and
  • Require HHS to develop and distribute best practices on the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress among first responders.