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U.S. House passes bill to support fire, EMS mental health

The HERO Act would create peer-support programs, mental health education and a system to collect information about first responder suicides



By Leila Merrill

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act again last week. The bill would provide mental health resources to first responders and health care providers. The HERO Act was passed as part of the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act.

“First responders are an essential part of our communities, and it is necessary that we take the proper steps as legislators to ensure their physical and mental health is protected,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), one of the bill’s cosponsors, told the Ripon Advance. “The HERO Act in today’s legislation calls for the formation of peer-support programs, mental health education, and new resources for PTSD, all of which will go towards helping those who help us every day.”

The HERO Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to report to Congress annually on first responder suicide rates. They also would have to identify risk factors, possible interventions, and recommended interventions for further study. The bill also requires HHS to develop and distribute best practices on the prevention and treatment of posttraumatic stress among first responders.

The bill also would establish two grant programs. One would train individual firefighters and paramedics to provide mental health support to peers in their organizations. The other grant would train healthcare providers to serve similar roles in hospitals and practices.

The HERO Act first passed in the House of Representatives in 2020. It now goes to the Senate.