Supervisor Barger Calls for Action to Address PTSD and Suicide Among First Responders

Published : Friday, September 7, 2018 | 4:04 PM

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will discuss a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, to review current policies, programs and services that address suicide prevention, PTSD, critical incident stress management and mental health care, as well as education and outreach for first responders, emergency room personnel and crime scene personnel.

“Our law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders experience traumatic events and situations that can result in post-traumatic stress which, in some cases, unfortunately leads to suicide,” said Supervisor Barger. “It must be our top priority to provide our public safety professionals the resources they need to minimize the long-lasting damage that repeated exposure to traumatic incidents can have on their mental health.”

A recent report published by the Ruderman Family Foundation indicates that the number of firefighters and law enforcement officers who took their own lives outnumbered all line-of-duty deaths in 2017. According to the report, “Constant exposure to death and destruction exerts a psychological toll on first responders, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, depression and even suicide.”

The report also says that not enough agencies have programs and policies in place to address suicide prevention. “Silence can be deadly, because it is interpreted as a lack of acceptance … that prevents first responders from accessing potentially life-saving mental health services,” the report said.

Supervisor Barger’s motion calls for the Chief Executive Officer to work with the Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the Chief Medical Examiner/Coroner, the Mental Health Department, labor partners, and other relevant stakeholders to report back to the Board of Supervisors in 90 days.

The report will include a collaborative and comprehensive plan to address and mitigate mental health issues and suicide among first responders resulting from job-related stress and trauma. It will examine data, best practices and research from experts concerning the unique issues related to suicide by first responders in order to improve protocols and policies. This includes training for peers and superiors to help recognize the warning signs of suicide and trauma, and extensive public education and outreach.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s motion directing county departments to develop an action plan to address PTSD and suicide among first responders will be discussed at a Meeting to be held on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, 9:30 a.m. at the Hearing Room of the Board of Supervisors (500 West Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012). Expected to attend are:

* Kathryn Barger, Los Angeles County Supervisor
* Daryl L. Osby, Los Angeles County Fire Chief
* Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department representatives
* Dr. Jonathan Sherin M.D., Ph.D. Director, Department of Mental Health
* First responders