WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act alongside Congresswoman Shontel Brown (OH-11), Congressman Mike Turner (OH-10), and Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02). This bipartisan legislation, which the lawmakers chose to introduce during PTSD Awareness Month, aims to help police, fire, emergency services and 911 personnel cope with the unique and immense stress they face on the job. Specifically, the bill would help establish mental health programs for America’s law enforcement and first responders who often endure long-term challenges from providing life-saving services in moments of crisis. Senator Chuck Grassley has introduced the legislation in the Senate.
“Police officers and other public safety personnel are the first line of defense in our communities when disaster strikes,” said Congressman Joyce. “Unfortunately, the danger and stress they face on the job doesn’t just disappear when they’re off the clock. I’m proud to introduce this bill to ensure law enforcement officers and first responders have access to the mental health care they need to cope with trauma they face while selflessly serving our communities. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me in this important effort and urge the rest of the House to support this bipartisan bill so that the men and women who risk their lives to save others are able to get the care they need.”
“While serving on the frontlines protecting our communities, our police officers and first responders often face traumatic situations that can leave them with invisible wounds,” said Rep. Brown. “In fact, as many as 15 percent of all officers in the U.S. suffer from PTSD, which takes a toll on their well-being and impacts their decision making. This long overdue bipartisan legislation would bring us one step closer to ensuring our public safety officers can access much-needed mental health resources for PTSD.”
“Each day our first responders face immense stress and heavy responsibilities as they keep our communities safe. When they need our help, it is our duty to respond. The Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Actwill provide our first responders with the mental health support they rightly deserve when they need it,” said Congressman Turner. “As Mayor and now in Congress, I have worked alongside our first responders to make sure they have the professional and personal resources needed to safely do their jobs. This bipartisan legislation continues that effort.”
“Our first responders and law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect our communities and this service can take a tremendous toll,” said Congresswoman Ross. “These careers often pose serious physical and mental risks, resulting in higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental illnesses than in the general population. This bipartisan bill will ensure that public servants who are delivering life-saving aid have access to the resources and care they need to stay healthy and continue protecting communities in North Carolina and across the country.”
Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and 911 dispatchers routinely encounter high-stress situations, making them more likely to suffer from PTSD and less likely to receive help for their illness than the average American. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 15% of public safety officers currently working suffer from PTSD, with documented rates higher among female officers. Despite these statistics, only 3-5% of the 18,000 police departments across the country have suicide prevention training programs. A 2019 Office of Community Oriented Policing Services report found that many law enforcement agencies do not have the capacity, funding, or local access to mental health professionals necessary to support their officers.
In an effort to reverse these statistics and direct federal resources to law enforcement agencies to better support America’s local heroes struggling with PTSD, the Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act would require the Attorney General to establish at least one evidence-based treatment and preventative care program within the Department of Justice to help public safety officers with job-related PTSD.
The legislation would also require the Attorney General to consult relevant stakeholders while crafting the program(s), including federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local agencies employing public safety officers as well as non-governmental organizations that support law enforcement officers and their families. By doing so, this bipartisan legislation lays the groundwork for much-needed action aimed at offering increased support to law enforcement officers and first responders struggling with PTSD.
You can read the full bill text here.