Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

Dart wants free mental health care for first responders

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From staff reports

The Illinois Senate has passed legislation proposed by Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart that eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for first responders seeking mental health treatment.

“We ask first responders to be constantly exposed to traumatic and dangerous situations to protect us,” Dart said. “This legislation is a solid step toward helping them. It will remove the financial barriers between them and the tools they need to manage the burden society has placed upon them.”

Dart Photo From Twitter Page 25KB

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart

The need for mental health care for first responders is critical., Dart said. Due to their exposure to violent and traumatic events, first responders are at an increased risk of developing mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression and substance use disorder. The Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology reports suicide rates are 69% higher among police officers than the general population, while a Harvard Study has shown that first responders are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.

Studies by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions and 75% of police officers have experienced a traumatic event.

Sponsored by Democratic State Sen. Michael Hastings, the legislation ensures first responders – including police officers, firefighters,and emergency medical services personnel – are exempt from any cost sharing requirements related to mental health counseling, including insurance deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance.

Finances are often a burden for individuals seeking mental health care, Dart said. The average price of psychotherapy is up to $200 per session, and insurance companies can pass along as much as 40% of the total amount to the insured. In a survey conducted by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 42% of respondents identified cost as significant barrier to obtaining mental health services.

“Our first responders have endured many hardships, one hardship they should not face is a barrier to mental health treatment,” said Hastings. “This is a landmark piece of legislation that will not only impact first responders but set an example for the rest of the country as to how to help them.”

The legislation’s support includes NAMI Chicago, National Association of Social Workers – Illinois Chapter, Mental Health America of Illinois, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, Police Benevolent and Protective Association, Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and AFSCME Council 31, among others.

The legislation now moves to the state House, where it will be sponsored by State Rep. Angie Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd), the wife of a police officer. Dart urged lawmakers to quickly approve the measure and send it to Gov. JB Pritzker to sign into law.

“Every day, first responders answer our calls to help during the worst events of our lives – car crashes, violent attacks, health crises, the death of our loved ones – and this bill is an investment in not only their well-being, but in the health and safety of all our communities,” Dart said. “I encourage members of the Illinois House to pass this common-sense legislation in order to ensure the health of those who keep us safe.”

1 Comment

  1. Carl Alaimo on April 21, 2024 at 10:55 am

    This would be a small price to pay to address Suicide, PTSD, increased substance abuse in our 1st Responders.



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