Pritzker signs bill increasing mental health resources for first responders

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — New legislation signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday aims to tackle first responders’ physical and mental health.

The trio of new measures strengthens Scott’s Law to help keep first responders safe on roadways and improve their mental health resources.

“Our first responders face intense mental health challenges every day on the job,” Pritzker said. ‘Too often, discussions and resources surrounding mental health are discouraged or stigmatized.”

One of the bills, authorized by Sen. Robert Martwick  (D-Chicago), would require the Department of Human Services to create a mental health database specifically designed for first responders. Martwick said the department being short-staffed is just one of the many factors adding to the daily stress of those on the frontlines.

“We have a shortage and that coupled with a global pandemic, a rise in violent crime, a rise in shootings and gun crime, the city of Chicago canceling days off, officers working 12-hour shifts in the most difficult situations, it’s no surprise that officers are dealing with substance abuse problems, mental health problems and we see rising suicides among first responders,” Martwick said.

The new database would be geared toward tackling issues like suicidal thoughts, anxiety and trauma.   

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 30% of first responders suffer from conditions like depression and PTSD, compared to a fifth of the population-at-large. The same data shows that up to 300 police officers commit suicide across the country each year. 

“We want our first responders to know what they need,” says Pritzker, “and how to get help.”

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