Rosen, Fischer Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Mental Health Support for Firefighters, Law Enforcement, and Other Emergency Response Personnel

Legislation Would Enhance Federal Services To Treat Post-Traumatic Stress And Combat Suicide Among First Responders

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act to improve federal mental health support programs available to our nation’s firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other emergency response personnel. First responders in Nevada have recently highlighted the need to increase mental health resources, including by declaring mental health a top priority. 

This bipartisan legislation would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data on first responder suicides and help determine best practices for identifying and treating post-traumatic stress and combating suicide. It would also establish a federal grant initiative for peer-to-peer counseling programs to address firefighter and emergency medical services (EMS) mental health challenges. 

“Our nation’s first responders are heroes who regularly put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and protect communities, which can take an enormous toll on their mental health. We must take action to make sure our firefighters, law enforcement officers, and paramedics in Nevada have the mental health resources they need,” said Senator Rosen. “My bipartisan legislation will help ensure that our first responders have the counseling and mental health care support they deserve.”

“I’m pleased to co-lead the HERO Act because our firefighters and first responders deserve our full support,” said Senator Fischer. “These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, often at the expense of their own physical and mental health. Our bipartisan bill would boost access to critical mental health resources that will reduce suicides, set up peer-to-peer counseling, and treat posttraumatic stress.”

“Every day, fire fighters and rescue workers respond to some of the most dangerous and demanding emergencies imaginable,” said Edward Kelly, General President of the International Association of Firefighters. “These responses take an enormous toll on fire fighters’ mental health and place them at risk for developing a variety of behavioral health conditions. We owe it to fire fighters to ensure they have the resources to stay safe on the job. The IAFF is proud to endorse the HERO Act, which will help train fire fighters on peer mental health counseling and drive more effective treatments for fire fighters. We thank Senators Rosen and Fischer for their leadership in ensuring fire fighters aren’t forced to struggle with job-related mental health emergencies. We urge Congress to pass the HERO Act immediately and stand beside our dedicated first responders.”

“Las Vegas Firefighters Local 1285 are grateful for Senator Rosen’s support to reintroduce the HERO Act,” said James Suarez, President of Las Vegas Firefighters Union Local 1285. “Unfortunately, our department has experienced the loss of our members by suicide. The HERO Act will not only study first responder mental health, but also assist with much needed treatment.”

“Firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel respond to traumatic events daily, and these incidents cause acute and cumulative impacts on the responders and their families,” said Fernando Gray, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Chief. “We appreciate Senator Rosen taking the lead to help our nation’s first responders in this critical area. The HERO Act will provide local fire and EMS departments significant behavioral and mental wellness resources.”

“The Reno Firefighters Association is grateful to Senator Rosen for reintroduction of the HERO Act,” said Dan Tapia, President of the Reno Firefighters Association. “As we work diligently at the local, state and federal level to remove the stigma of behavioral health in the fire service it is important to recognize that we have lost both active and retired firefighters to suicide here in Nevada. The HERO Act will provide additional funding to improve recognition and peer support services.”

“The mental health of law enforcement officers has long been overlooked,” said Dan Gordon, president of Nevada Police Union. “Thank you to Senator Rosen for acknowledging this important issue and working to create resources that will help police officers live healthier.”

“As Founder and CEO of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, we would like to endorse Senator Rosen’s HERO Act to ensure the support of the Senate for the behavioral health of our first responders in the United States,” said Jeff Dill, Founder and CEO of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance. “Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance has been tracking and validating Firefighter, EMS and Dispatcher suicides since 2010. The impact of these tragic events on department members and families are devastating. Senator Rosen’s dedication by supporting the behavioral health needs of these brave men & women should be commended. Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance is both honored and proud to support Senator Rosen.”

Senator Rosen has been a leader in the push to support firefighters and first responders with the resources they need to do their jobs safely. Senator Rosen recently helped pass bipartisan legislation providing fire departments with more funding to hire more firefighters and purchase lifesaving equipment. Earlier this year, Rosen introduced the Recruit and Retain Act to get law enforcement increased resources to hire and retain more police officers in an effort to tackle the law enforcement shortage in Nevada and nationwide. Last year, she helped deliver a historic pay raise and benefits funding for federal wildland firefighters through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.