February 7, 2019

Denver, CO – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee today voted 4-to-1 to advance SB19-065, Peer Assistance Emergency Medical Service Provider. The bill, introduced by Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo), would create a peer health assistance program for Colorado’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers. The bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

“We must ensure that those who protect the health and safety of Coloradans every day have the support they need to do their physically and mentally strenuous work,” said President Garcia. “This bill will help EMS providers who are struggling get the treatment they need to safely return back to service, all under the protection of confidentiality.”

Eighty four percent of first responders – including firefighters, police officers, EMTs, paramedics, and nurses – had experienced a traumatic event on the job, according to a 2017 study by the University of Phoenix. According to that same study, 34 percent of first responders received a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder such as depression or PTSD. For those diagnosed with depression, nearly half cited incidents at work as the leading cause.

EMS practitioners also suffer from a high rate of suicidal thoughts, according to a 2015 survey of EMTs and paramedics published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS). In fact, the survey found that 37 percent reported contemplating suicide – nearly 10 times the rate of American adults – while 6.6 percent reported having attempted suicide compared to .5 percent of all adults.

“I’ve been in EMS for 18 years, and I teach a paramedic program at Pueblo Community College. I know the challenges facing EMS providers and I’m proud to help make support more readily available,” added President Garcia.

SB19-065 would offer education, support, counseling, and treatment to EMS providers who struggle with chemical dependency, mental illness, or any other personal, emotional, or psychological problems. The program would be overseen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and funded through fees on each new license and renewal.

To learn more about SB19-065, please visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-065.