March 14, 2019
Denver, CO – The Senate today voted unanimously to advance SB19-065, Peer Assistance Emergency Medical Service Provider, a bill from President Leroy M. Garcia (D-Pueblo) that would create a peer health assistance program for Colorado’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers. The bill now heads to the Colorado House of Representatives for consideration.
“Working in Emergency Medical Services can be both physically and mentally strenuous. As a paramedic, I understand some of the challenges they face – and as a legislator, I’m proud that the Senate has advanced my bill that will give EMS providers the support they need to serve our state,” said President Garcia.
According to a 2017 study by the University of Phoenix, 84 percent of first responders – including firefighters, police officers, EMTs, paramedics, and nurses – have experienced a traumatic event on the job. Roughly 34 percent have faced mental health disorders such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and nearly half of those diagnosed with depression cited work incidents as the leading cause.
EMS practitioners also suffer from a high rate of suicidal thoughts. In fact, a 2015 survey of EMTs and paramedics published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) 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 know the courage and sacrifice it takes to do such strenuous work, day in and day out, and the passage of Senate Bill 65 will help our hardworking first responders continue to keep our communities safe and healthy,” added President Garcia.
This legislation 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 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.