Springfield state senator's bill would guarantee PTSD treatment for first responders
By Galen Bacharier, Springfield News-Leader,
JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation from Springfield's state senator guaranteeing treatment for PTSD among firefighters and first responders earned wide support among fire chiefs, EMTs and other leaders in the area on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 24, sponsored by Springfield Republican Sen. Lincoln Hough, would guarantee access to behavioral health care services and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder for first responders. It would build on a 2021 law, sponsored by Hough, establishing a pool of state dollars to fund cancer treatment for firefighters who contract the disease through their work.
Employers and insurance companies would not be able to impose restrictions or geographic limits on treatment for responders, and those impacted would have guaranteed access for up to three years after their retirement.
"We will most likely come before you with a (new version) and put it under the umbrella that the cancer trust was funded last year with," Hough told a Senate committee.
Greg Brown, the Eureka fire chief and head of the trust for firefighter cancer treatment, said the legislation would be a valuable expansion of a program that he said had already been "phenomenally successful." He anticipated the cancer trust reaching about 1,500 firefighters in its first year, and said it is approaching 2,000.
The legislation would also provide PTSD treatment services to other Missourians who serve in a first responder role, including those working 911 response lines. J.R. Webb, the assistant director of 911 Emergency Communications in Springfield and Greene County, said that PTSD and critical distress were a "huge factor" for operators who are repeatedly exposed over the phone to traumatic and potentially life-or-death situations.
Hough's bill also earned the support of several other fire chiefs, the Missouri State Council of Firefighters and the Missouri Ambulance Association.
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