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SPRINGFIELD – Legislation supported by Senator Michael E. Hastings which aims to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues among first responders was signed into law on Friday.

“We need to make sure that those in the first responder community who are struggling have properly trained help readily available to them,” Hastings (D-Tinley Park) said. “This ensures that these men and women receive the best possible treatment and are unafraid to seek it.”

House Bill 2766 ensures individuals tasked with providing peer support counseling to law enforcement and firefighters are properly trained and that those who seek out mental health treatment will be protected under the law without fear of termination or discrimination.

Additionally, the new law will create a task force to study recommendations to help reduce the risk of suicide among first responders.

A 2017 study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that more police officers and firefighters died due to suicide than all line-of-duty deaths combined. The study also highlighted the vast underreporting of suicides, with concerns that the problem is much more complex than experts had anticipated.

“The lifestyle of a first responder is a unique experience, and that means we need to provide them with a different sort of care. I am thrilled that we are on the path to helping them find it with this legislation,” Hastings said.

House Bill 2766 goes into effect immediately.