cunningham suicide 051921SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley have passed a new law – recently signed by the governor – that will help promote mental health treatment for police officers and firefighters by providing better focus for the First Responder Suicide Prevention Task Force.

“Our first responders risk their lives to protect us every day working stressful, traumatic jobs,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure they have access to the mental health resources they need.”

According to studies cited by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, firefighters consider and attempt suicide at a higher rate than the general population, and nationally, between 125 and 300 police officers commit suicide every year.

The law requires the First Responder Suicide Prevention Task Force to make recommendations in specific areas that would help prevent suicide and connect first responders to mental health resources.

It also emphasizes access to mental health and wellness services, peer support groups, and ongoing education relating to mental health. In addition, the task force will make recommendations regarding specialized mental health training targeted at first responders.

“State and local governments need to do a better job of recognizing this growing crisis,” said Hurley, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the task force. “HB 3911 will ensure agencies work together to get services to the men and women who risk their lives to protect us.”

The measure, originally House Bill 3911, takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.