February 10, 2022
The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Monday to advance a proposal by Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, to increase behavioral health support for Maine’s first responders. The vote was 6-5 with two members absent.
LD 1504 would ensure Maine’s first responders, including firefighters, emergency medical services and public safety telecommunicators, have access to behavioral health care services that will mitigate the impact of traumatic events encountered in the line of duty.
“Our firefighters and first responders are exposed to traumatic events on the job, from routine calls to community-wide tragedies. This has a cumulative impact on these brave men and women over time,” said Rep. Gramlich. “I have worked closely with stakeholders on this proposal, which would ensure the needs of our first responders are met, both initially after a traumatic event and in the long-term. We owe this much to the people who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe and put themselves in harm’s way every time they go to work.”
Gramlich submitted the bill after hearing from Michael Crouse, president of the Professional Firefighters of Maine, who reached out to her in hopes of working together on legislation to address the lack of behavioral health support for firefighters. The two worked together to engage with stakeholders, including first responders and behavioral health care professionals, to craft the measure that was advanced by lawmakers on Monday.
“Firefighters are exposed to traumatic events every day. Untreated, people living with PTSD are six times more likely to attempt suicide. Rep. Gramlich’s legislation will help to ensure that our first responders get the behavioral health care they need, not only at the time they experience trauma but also for the long haul,” said Crouse.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, and between 17 and 24% of public safety telecommunicators have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gramlich is a longtime social worker who is currently serving her second term in the Maine House. She is a member of the Taxation Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.