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(TRENTON) – Assemblymen Fred Scalera, Upendra J. Chivukula and John J. Burzichelli are sponsoring legislation to create a New Jersey Fire and EMS Crisis Intervention Services hotline to help volunteer and career first responders with stress stemming from the job.
“The situations that firefighters and emergency services teams are asked to deal with on a daily basis are incredibly stressful and can quickly get to you if you’re not prepared for it,” said Scalera (D-Essex), a career firefighter. “We do a pretty good job of protecting these guys from the physical dangers of the job. Now, we have an opportunity to help protect them from the emotional dangers as well.”
Under the bill (A-1572), which was recently released by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, the state Division of Fire Safety, in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s University Behavioral Health Care department, would establish a round-the-clock, toll free telephone hotline to help firefighters and emergency service personnel deal with personal or job-related depression, anxiety, stress or other emotional trauma or disorder.
“Being a first responder requires you to be fully committed to the job at hand, both mentally and physically,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset). “To be anything else is to invite unnecessary dangers into already perilous situations. Giving our fire and EMS crews an emotional relief valve is just the thing to keep both them – and the residents they serve – safe.”
The bill also would provide firefighters and EMS crews with a list of licensed or certified psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, qualified counselors and experienced former fire and emergency services personnel who are willing to accept referrals and provide debriefing and counseling services.
“There’s a certain machismo or bravado in these professions that makes it tough to admit when the work is getting to you,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester). “We want to let our first responders know that we’re here to help them deal with the emotional dangers of the job as well as the physical ones.”