Governor of Arizona, Katie Hobbs, has signed on a bill that will cater to the mental health of 911 operators.
Emergency dispatchers deal with a lot as they assist stressed individuals in horrible situations. They are the people who have to handle victims asking for help, retelling their circumstances in the rawest form possible and many other trauma-inducing scenarios. The operators have to calmly get the victims through the tough situation to get them the help they need. They have to bear the brunt of the emotions the victims might be feeling at that point. In order to help operators deal with the emotions and trauma that they suffer due to their work, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has signed a bill that will ensure unlimited mental health assistance for 911 operators, reports KTAR News.
This legislation was necessary as 911 operators handle immense strain in their day-to-day lives. According to a survey conducted by the National Library of Medicine, they suffer from high levels of depressive symptoms, alcohol abuse, PTSD symptoms, psychological inflexibility, emotion dysregulation and peritraumatic distress and dissociation. These individuals must have access to the resources that can help them keep their lives on a healthy trajectory.
House Bill 2717 allows 911 operators to seek mental health services without worrying about running out of sessions or paying out of pocket for extra sessions they feel they may need, reports City of Pheonix. It puts them on par with the privileges given to police officers and firefighters in the state. "To say the least, our 911 dispatchers have the grave responsibility of keeping our neighbors and communities safe," Gov. Hobbs said in a press release. "During those phone calls, they can experience extremely traumatic situations that they take home with them."
In the press conference, Hobbs also reiterated how this step could help increase recruitment for this field. Her objective is to give operators the tools they need not only to do their job properly but also to thrive in the real world. Therefore, she wants the services that are provided to be of such high quality that they ensure both the physical and mental well-being of the dispatchers. This decision was received with open arms by everyone. Frank Piccioli, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local with the city of Phoenix and Arizona EMS Workers United, at a press conference expressed why this decision was so necessary and essential.
Piccioli emphasized how dispatchers deal with issues of life and death regularly on their job front, which have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing. Melody Hernandez, Valley paramedic and bill sponsor, believes that these cause PTSD issues within them and therefore, mental health assistance is truly a necessity. She added that they are first of the First responders and needed to be prioritized and respected.
Hernandez shared how difficult the job of the dispatchers is where they have to "work through the screaming and the anxiety and the pressure that they face from the community that they are speaking to" and after leaving those calls, they are often left to their own devices to deal with the pain they might have absorbed in the whole process. As someone who has also been diagnosed with PTSD, she calls the condition "one of the most difficult diseases to heal from to deal with on a daily basis." In her opinion, this decision was fundamental for the health and safety of operators.