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Helping emergency service workers suffering from PTSD

HARRISBURG, Pa. — People who risk their lives to help others, are asking for help for themselves. It has many emergency responders turning to state legislators....

HARRISBURG, Pa. — People who risk their lives to help others, are asking for help for themselves.

It has many emergency responders turning to state legislators.

Post Trauma Stress Disorder or PTSD isn’t limited to those who serve in the military, it can also affect emergency responders who experience traumatic events right here at home.

Police, firefighters, and EMS workers from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, met with state legislators to share personal stories about the effects of their job.

Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association Secretary/Treasurer David Schmidt said “in my 31 plus years, I have seen five of my own members take their own lives. One life lost to PTSI is one too many, this is not an isolated incident, this is happening all across the commonwealth.”

Taking care of emergency responders mental health needs often came in the form of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), but many recognize that support isn’t what it used to be for them.
City of Pittsburgh EMS District Chief Roy Cox said “we were making progress and then with budget cuts, it kind of nixed our progress. Critical Incident Stress Management is alive and well in Pennsylvania, but it’s very minimal.”

It’s what has several emergency responders turning to Harrisburg, not only for help, but for thousands of dollars as well.

Pennsylvania state representative Frank Farry
(R-Bucks County) said “if we could find not just the 50 or 75 [thousand], but maybe double that to ensure the program is doing well, in our $31 billion budget, I think these are some of the things that we need to look at.”

Pennsylvania state representative Chris Sainato
(D-Lawrence County) said “it’s very import that we find ways to help if there is a way, because their jobs are very difficult. When they go out they don’t know what they’re going to find or what they’re going to see.”

Many who testified in asking for help to expand counseling services for emergency responders, asked that people not forget the emotional needs of dispatchers.

Dispatchers are usually the first point of contact in an emergency. Although they may not see disturbing events in person, they are often listening to those situations unfold as it happens.