|Posted:||September 10, 2021 02:53 PM|
|From:||Representative Dan L. Miller and Rep. Jennifer O'Mara|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Connecting Firefighters with Preventive Physical and Mental Healthcare|
|The fire service is dangerous work, and while many line-of-duty deaths and injuries relate to that work directly, many develop under the surface after the work is done. The link to cancer and heart-related disease in firefighters is clear, and unfortunately, we lose too many to suicide.
In many cases, those lives could have been extended or saved entirely with early detection and prevention measures. In recognition of these heightened risks, some fire companies have started to require annual physical examinations that include stress tests and preventative health exams to be proactive in catching diseases early. Where implemented, these programs have been proven to save lives.
Unfortunately for too many departments across Pennsylvania this is not the case. These exams typically run around $500-$600 per firefighter. This can be a financial disincentive and barrier that prevents firefighters from protecting themselves.
This legislation would provide a new grant pathway for fire companies who choose to require annual physical examinations. It would cover up to $650 for each firefighter who complies with the requirements. The bill would preserve personal medical privacy, assure collective bargaining rights, and would be available for every firefighter in every department that answers at least 15 calls a year. To be eligible, fire companies would need to certify that each firefighter receives on an annual basis a minimum of two hours of mental health training specifically to identify and discuss the impact fire service trauma may have on them and their brothers and sisters with which they serve.
Evidence has shown a direct relationship between firefighters’ service and their greater risk for long-term health challenges. They have our back, and we should have theirs. Cost should never be a barrier for a firefighter to get the preventative healthcare they need and getting an exam should not be dependent on fundraising.
We hope you will consider supporting this important initiative.
Introduced as HB1853