COLUMBUS – This week, the House Civil Justice Committee favorably reported House Bill 545 by a unanimous 14-0 vote. The legislation aims to create privileged peer support for first responders and law enforcement.
“This bill is about making sure we serve those who serve us,” said bill sponsor and State Representative Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester). “We must have a system where our police and fire folks are able to talk with peer support members after experiencing traumatic events.”
Under the bill, privileged peer support would prohibit a peer support team member from testifying in regard to a communication received from an individual receiving peer support services or the team member’s advice to an individual receiving the services.
Peer support services include providing emotional, social or practical knowledge and experience to peers and helping navigate resources pertaining to mental health and other subject maters. The support may come in the form of a consultation, risk assessment, referral or on-site intervention.
“This is important because our first responders run towards danger when others run away. This selflessness often exposes them to acute or chronic high stress situations, which can lead to psychological or physical symptoms” Baldridge added.
Experience is required to execute the outlined services. One must be employed or formerly employed as a peace officer, firefighter, emergency medical worker, or corrections officer. Dispatchers and civilian employees of entities that employ such professionals may also qualify.
No less than 16 hours of basic peer support training and an appointment by an employer, union or charitable organization consisting of law enforcement professionals and first responders are also required.
The bill now awaits a full House floor vote.