State Rep. Frank Farry is working with his peers across the aisle to pass a bill which would set up a comprehensive statewide program for first responders who have seen the very worst in their work.
“It would take a helpline that we’re using regionally and hopefully use ours statewide,” Farry said. “It would also work towards developing peer-to-peer programming, awareness training on the issues of mental wellness of first responders.”
The bill would also increase the fees on speeding and DUI tickets by $5 to fund the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund. At least $250,000 of the money generated in this raise would go towards the Emergency Responder Mental Wellness and Stress Management Program.
Considering these fees have not been raised since nineties, Farry definitely prefers this funding method to a tax increase.
Farry, a Republican, and Democrat Mike Schlossberg of Allentown also want to break the stigma of asking for help. As Middletown-Langhorne Fire Chief, Farry is intimately familiar with the problems emergency services face and called it a quiet crisis.
“As first responders we’re all supposed to be rough and tough,” Farry said. “You’re expecting us to show up and be at our absolute best when you’re at your absolute worst potentially. That doesn’t mean there’s not a mental strain on us.”
While many are familiar with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) for those who return from military service, Farry also wants people to know about PTSI.
Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries can be incredibly draining for people who may have seen something incredibly traumatic. People who suffer from PTSI can make significant steps in recovery and overwhelmingly want to get back to work, according to Farry.
Unfortunately, not everyone recovers. Lower Bucks County lost two valuable members of the community in the past four years. In 2015, George Redner III took his own life, followed the next year by Kenny Hopkins.
Farry also supports a bill introduced by Rep. Steve Barrar (R) of Delaware and Chester Counties. HB 2446 would make PTSI a workplace injury, helping first responders who take time off following a particularly awful experience.
Currently, the Lenape Valley Foundation in Doylestown has a 24/7 helpline for first responders at 267-893-5400