Link CommitteeSPRINGFIELD – A comprehensive proposal aimed at ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues among firefighters and law enforcement officers passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation – House Bill 2766 – is sponsored by State Senator Terry Link (D-Indian Creek).

“Our brave first responders often work in traumatic environments that can be extremely stressful,” Link said. “Over time, these exposures can have an impact on the mental health of an individual. Ensuring there are services available when needed acknowledges these often tough working conditions and is vital to maintain the overall health of police officers and firefighters.”

Link’s plan ensures individuals tasked with providing peer support counseling to law enforcement and firefighters are properly trained. The plan also ensures individuals who seek out mental health treatment can do so without fear of termination or adverse employment action.

The measure also creates a task force to study recommendations to help reduce the risk and rates of suicide among first responders.

A 2017 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that 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.”

House Bill 2766 passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday and will now head to the Illinois House for a concurrence vote.

Category: Releases

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