Rep. Ami Bera Unveils the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act
SACRAMENTO, CA – Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) today was joined by Sacramento Police Chief Dan Hahn, Sacramento Metro Assistant Chief Maurice Johnson, and first responders to unveil H.R. 6571, the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act. September is National Suicide Prevention Month and studies have indicated that first responders could be at a higher risk for suicide than other professions. The federal government must do more to study, prevent, and respond to mental health challenges among first responders.
The HERO Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress each year on first responder suicide rates, including identifying risk factors, possible interventions, and recommended interventions for further study. The bill also establishes grants for peer-to-peer counseling for firefighters and requires HHS to develop and distribute best practices on the prevention and treatment of posttraumatic stress among first responders.
“Sacramento County’s first responders protect our communities and put themselves in harm’s way every day,” said Congressman Ami Bera. “Losing even one life to suicide is too many and the HERO Act will give first responders access to more resources, more options for counseling, and encourage best practices to reduce suicide risk. I want to thank Chief Maurice Johnson for his leadership and raising this issue at our Cap-to-Cap program this year. This is a commonsense bill that can make a big difference.”
“The Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act – or HERO Act – is a very important bill,” said Sacramento Police Chief Dan Hahn. “I’d like to thank Congressman Bera and his staff for helping us address a growing problem in the first responder community. Our jobs are incredibly stressful and it’s important we identify why these problems exist. Just as we work to prevent tragedies before they occur in the community, this bill will help us identify why suicides are higher among policemen, firefighters, and other first responders before tragedy happens. Above all, it will help those in need get the help they deserve.”
“I want to thank Congressman Bera and his team for this important bill they are introducing," said Sacramento Metro Assistant Fire Chief Maurice Johnson. "I first spoke with Congressman Bera about the higher rate of suicides among firefighters at our Sacramento Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap program in April. Since then, his team has worked with us to write a bill that will help us solve this problem. A firefighter’s job is to protect public safety and help others. But too often we don’t seek help ourselves. The HERO Act will help first responders get the resources they need to combat higher rates of mental health issues.”
"Fire fighters continually witness human trauma and scenes of devastation over the course of their careers. The cumulative effects of these exposures on fire fighters and emergency medical responders may result in psychological injuries and even suicides,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “The Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act will assist us in documenting the frequency of emergency responder suicides while simultaneously delivering the necessary resources to assist in healing traumatized emergency responders. I thank Representative Bera for introducing this crucial bill and his leadership on this important mental health issue.”
“Each year in the US more than 45,000 individuals tragically take their own life making suicide one of leading causes of death across nation,” said Colleen Creighton, Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology. “The Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act takes a strong step forward in soundly addressing this public health concern by effectively reaching one of our most vulnerable populations and providing them with the critical assistance they need.”