State-funded mental health help could arrive for first responders and families in Utah


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The bill would allocate $ 5 million to help police and fire departments provide mental health resources to their employees.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Police at the scene of a shooting at the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office in South Salt Lake on Saturday April 10, 2021.

When Weber County Sheriff Lt. Cortney Ryan left the Ogden House where a gunfight broke out on a January night nine years ago, he felt it was a miracle that he came out unscathed.

A policeman is dead in the shoot. Five others were injured. But he got out.

“I suffered no physical injuries that night,” Ryan told lawmakers on Wednesday. “But I suffered a lot of mental injuries. And I didn’t know how to deal with these things.

Ryan and other law enforcement officials on Wednesday expressed support for the bill that would provide $ 5 million in mental health assistance to first responders.

Representative Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, who introduced the bill to the Interim Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, said the bill would require all first responder organizations to provide resources confidential mental health issues to their employees and families. This would include police, firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers and others.

Mental health care providers who contract with an agency would be required to provide periodic screenings, as well as health assessments for staff involved in a “critical incident” within 12 hours.

The $ 5 million would be used for grants to help organizations cover the costs of these resources.

Wilcox stressed that the funding would not only help current employees, but also their spouses and children. It would also be a benefit for retired first responders.

“It reflects the reality that families, on the whole, are paying the price,” Wilcox said, as his voice broke with emotion.

Ryan said it took a long time to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder after that 2012 shooting. But his wife, he said, is still struggling. She hears sirens and worries that he was involved in another shooting, although his job is more administrative these days.

“It opens up that injury every time,” he said.

Ogden’s retired police chief Randy Watt also applauded the funding that could be used for dispatchers and retirees.

“As a retiree, I can tell you that I have had to visit longtime retired friends who haven’t gotten over the effects and impacts of work,” he said.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Midvale, asked Wilcox if the bill – and the funding – would be enough.

“It’s a good and solid first step,” replied Wilcox.

The committee approved the bill, which will give it a better chance of becoming law in the general session early next year.

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