WEST virginia legislature
2020 regular session
House Bill 4778
By Delegates Dean, Miller, D. Kelly, Maynard, J. Jeffries, Paynter, Angelucci, Staggers, Jennings, Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker) and Lovejoy
[Introduced February 10, 2020; Referred to the Committee on Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services then Health and Human Resources]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §15-5-29, relating to creating the First Responders Mental Health Advisory Board; setting forth the board’s responsibilities; requiring reports; and defining a term.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
ARTICLE 5. DIVISION OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT.
§15-5-29. First Responders Mental Health Advisory Board.
(a) Findings. -- First responders are more likely than members of the general public to develop behavioral health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Firefighters, for example, are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. Firefighters and other first responders are first on the scene to not only witness an accident, injury or shocking event, but also deal with the emotional repercussions – both within themselves and their community. They have little time to care for their own health and mental health needs while ministering to the needs of others.
(b) For the purposes of this section a “first responder” is defined as a person who performs one or more “emergency services” as that term is defined in §15-5-1 of this code.
(c) There is hereby created the First Responders Mental Health Advisory Board whose responsibility it is to identify the mental health issues arising out of and facing first responders in the performance of their jobs and seek solutions to those issues.
(d) The board consists of five members, one of whom must be a deputy sheriff, appointed by the Governor to serve at his or her will and pleasure.
(e) The board shall develop recommendations to address:
(1) The mental health issues facing first responders;
(2) Potential solutions for state and local governments to provide greater access to mental health care services for first responders;
(3) The sufficiency of first responder organizations’ employee health insurance plans for obtaining access to mental health care services for first responders;
(4) The sufficiency of first responder organizations’ human resources policies, including:
(A) Whether guaranteed employment should be offered for a first responder who self-reports a mental health issue;
(B) The effectiveness of existing employee assistance programs for treating post-traumatic stress disorder and whether those programs should be expanded;
(C) Any policy modification necessary to improve access to mental health care services for first responders; and
(D) The establishment of best practices for municipalities, counties, and state agencies regarding legal reporting duties for first responders anonymously seeking mental health treatment;
(5) The effectiveness of workers’ compensation and other benefit claims for first responders, including determining:
(A) The process by which those claims for first responders are handled and whether that process may be improved;
(B) The feasibility of requiring post-traumatic stress disorder to be covered under workers’ compensation for first responders and if covered, the standards for diagnosing that condition;
(C) The effectiveness of workers’ compensation benefits and related benefits, and whether those benefits are excessively denied; and
(D) Methods for improving the appeals process for workers’ compensation and other benefit claims;
(6) The feasibility of mental health training during the licensing or certification and renewal process for first responders;
(7) The effectiveness of methods for assessing a first responder’s mental health care needs after a critical incident, including determining:
(A) The feasibility of creating a standardized post-critical incident checklist to assess a first responder’s mental health and of establishing minimum requirements for a first responder to return to duty; and
(B) The effectiveness of critical incident stress debriefing programs used by local governments in this state and whether:
(i) Those programs may be expanded statewide; and
(ii) Peer support may benefit those programs;
(8) The opportunities for public-private partnership to provide mental health care services to first responders; and
(9) Possible West Virginia-specific barriers, including stigmas, for first responders seeking mental health care services.
(f) The board shall develop a written report of its recommendations and deliver the report to the Governor, and the Legislature not later than January 1, 2021.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to create the First Responders Mental Health Advisory Board. The bill sets forth the board’s responsibilities, requires reports, and defines a term.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from a heading or the present law and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.