Rep. Bera’s Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act Passed by Energy and Commerce Committee
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to pass Representative Ami Bera’s (D-CA) bipartisan Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act, legislation that would provide additional mental health resources to our nation’s first responders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In spring 2018, Sacramento-area firefighters told me that they lacked the resources to tackle mental health challenges,” said Rep. Bera, M.D. “I also discovered that the United States doesn’t even track how many firefighters and paramedics die by suicide each year. I worked with local and national first responder groups to draft the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome (HERO) Act to provide meaningful solutions to these problems.
Rep. Bera continued: “We know our nation’s first responders already experience higher mental health stress and higher risk of suicide than many other professions, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is only increasing those burdens. Our brave police, fire, and emergency medical personnel must now bear the additional mental burdens that daily exposure to the virus brings, especially in light of insufficient PPE for first responders. My bill would provide critical mental health resources to ensure our first responders are able to cope with the added stresses of completing their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am also supportive of an amendment to the bill to create an additional program that would provide mental health support to health care workers, who are also on the frontlines battling COVID-19. I’m grateful to Chairman Pallone for including the bill in today’s markup and for the Energy and Commerce Committee members who voted for this important legislation, and I look forward to the House voting on my bill.”
The HERO Act, as introduced by Rep. Bera, 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. It also requires HHS to develop and distribute best practices on the prevention and treatment of posttraumatic stress among first responders.
Rep. Bera introduced the HERO Act in 2018 and was joined by Sacramento Police Chief Dan Hahn, Sacramento Metro Assistant Chief Maurice Johnson, and Sacramento-area first responders to unveil the legislation. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced companion legislation in January of this year.
The HERO Act currently has 86 cosponsors and is supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, the American Association of Suicidology, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.