Special to the Independent
On September 20, Senator Sal DiDomenico joined the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) Fire Ops event and got hands-on experience as a firefighter. With supervision from the experts, DiDomenico was able to wear the fire gear, cut apart a car, extinguish a fire, and learn about performing CPR. His partner for the day was Everett Fire Union President and PFFM Legislative Agent, Lt. Craig Hardy. DiDomenico also supports firefighters through his legislative agenda, advocating to pass his legislation that would support their mental health.
“I have always been an unwavering supporter of Massachusetts firefighters and seeing what they do up close and personal has made me even more grateful for the heroic and dangerous work they do every single day,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I also want to thank my friend, Craig Hardy, for guiding me through all the steps during the Fire Ops training. Calling firefighters heroes is not enough, we need to put action behind our words and pass bills like my legislation, S.1691, which would support firefighters dealing with PTSD and reduce stigma around mental health.”
Often, when there is a tragedy or trauma, firefighters are the first to arrive at the scene, and such continuous exposure to car accidents, house fires and other emergencies can lead to the deterioration of their mental health. In fact, research has shown that repeated and extended exposure to traumatic events triggers PTSD at similar rate experienced by Military personnel who return from combat. Approximately 20% of firefighters and paramedics meet the criteria for PTSD, compared to the 6.8% lifetime risk of the general population, and tragically studies have shown that people who suffer from PTSD are six times more likely to commit suicide compared to those who do not suffer from PTSD.
DiDomenico’s proposed bill, S.1691, and Representative McGonagle’s bill H.2726 would ensure that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder be treated like any other disability and help end the stigma associated with mental health assistance for firefighters. By defining PTSD as a disability and creating a presumption that PTSD was suffered in the line of duty, firefighters can receive the timely and adequate medical care they need to prevent chronic, disabling, and potentially life-threatening disorders from developing.