policefireSPRINGFIELD – Firefighters and law enforcement officers would have expanded access to mental health services under a proposal by State Senator Terry Link (D-Indian Creek) that passed the Senate recently.

“The men and women who dedicate their lives to the protection of their neighbors do so under extremely stressful situations that can have an impact on the mental health of an individual,” Link said. “Ensuring there are services available when needed acknowledges these often tough working conditions and is vital to maintain the overall health of our brave first responders.”

Link’s plan, contained in Senate Bill 730, expands access to counseling services by allowing agencies to train personnel in peer counseling and establishing a training program for law enforcement officers to recognize signs of work-related cumulative stress.

A 2017 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found more police officers and firefighters died due to suicide than all line-of-duty deaths combined. The study also highlighted the vast underreporting of suicides, with concerns that the problem is much bigger and more complicated than experts initially anticipated.

“Traumatic experiences can have a lifetime effect on an individual,” Link said. “We need to continue to destigmatize mental health issues and increase efforts to ensure everyone has access to the services they need.”

Senate Bill 730 passed the Illinois Senate on April 12 and will now head to the Illinois House for further debate.

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