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Governor Baker Signs Bill To Ensure First Responders’ Confidential Access To Mental Health Services

Jan 28, 2019 06:30AM
BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito joined law enforcement and elected officials for a ceremonial bill signing for S.2633, An Act relative to critical incident intervention by emergency service providers.
 
This bill established a privilege for communications by first responders who, after witnessing traumatic events, seek out their peers for crisis intervention services. This will ensure law enforcement officers are able to confide in their peers about their experiences without fear of the conversation being used against them in employment decisions or subsequent court proceedings.
 
“Providing law enforcement officers with the ability to confidentially seek guidance from their peers will help them cope with the events they experience in the line of duty,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are thankful for the Legislature and law enforcement for their advocacy on this bill to increase support for services and reduce stigma around mental health issues.”
 
“Our administration is grateful for the Commonwealth’s first responders who put their lives on the line each day for their communities, and we are pleased to sign this bill affording them additional protection when they seek mental health counseling,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.
 
“First responders put their own safety on the line to help those in need, and we need to be conscious of the mental toll that their demanding and critically important work can take,” said Public Safety Secretary Tom Turco. “This law is designed to encourage first responders to seek the assistance they may need, from peers who understand what they are going through, without the worry that doing so may damage their employment status or stigmatize them.”
 
“This is common sense legislation that will offer law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency service providers the resources they need to debrief and manage the psychological impact following an incident,” said Representative Ed Coppinger (D-Boston), the House sponsor of the bill. “Critical incident intervention is a peer-to-peer resource in which registered and trained emergency service providers offer consultation, counseling, and stress management. This peer support is the first, necessary step in checking the stress health of an emergency service provider and it can often bridge the gap if further help is required.”
 
“Police officers, firefighters, and paramedics work every day under demanding circumstances, and responding to critical incidents can have a direct, negative impact on the mental health of first responders,” said Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury). “Confidentiality is an essential piece of comprehensive mental health services, and this bill will encourage greater participation and improved mental health for these brave men and
 
“After a 26 year career serving in law enforcement, I speak with first-hand knowledge of the great value that access to Critical Incident Stress Management plays in ensuring the wellness of our brave first-responders,” said State Representative Timothy R. Whelan (R-Barnstable). “The crises they see are many. The magnifying glass which they work under is great. These women and men need supports for their mental health given the horrors they will see in their careers. I commend my colleagues in the legislature for enacting this legislation and thank Governor Baker for signing this bill and affirming his support for our first-responders.”
 
“Effective crisis intervention and stress management has emerged over the last decade as a proven method for the immediate provision of urgent psychological support in the wake of a critical incident or traumatic event experienced by our first responders,” said Brian Kyes, Chelsea Police Chief and President of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs. “We applaud the Governor yet once again for signing this important piece of legislation brought forward by members of the House and the Senate to allow for confidentiality, absent extenuating circumstances, in order to effectuate a more comprehensive and intensive diffusion and debriefing in the interest of furthering officer/firefighter wellness.”
 
“The Massachusetts Coalition of Police extends our thanks to Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and the Legislature, for recognizing the stress that public safety personnel face on a daily basis. This legislation is the cornerstone to working towards an environment that treats critical incident stress as a serious health concern for public safety workers and provides a means to offer assistance,” said Massachusetts Coalition of Police President Scott Hovsepian.
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