Bill to provide Missouri first-responders with peer counseling passes after 3 years of fighting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After fighting for three years, a bill to help first-responders in Missouri cope with stress and traumatic events needs only the governor's signature to become law.

This has been a top priority for the Fraternal Order of Police.

The union says for too long in Missouri first responders have not been able to talk about problems they're facing without fear of looking like they can't do their jobs.

At any officer involved shooting, such as the one earlier this year in Independence, Mo., first responders often are under tremendous stress.

Having a fellow first responder who has training in understanding the type of support a colleague needs can go a long way toward ensuring we have healthy police, fire and other emergency workers on our streets.

"It’s okay to go though stress periods," said Brad Lemon, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99. "It's okay to have these issues. These aren’t normal types of jobs. So understand if you need help we are here to listen, maybe help you through those processes if you need additional help. Guide you and get you through those additional sessions to the appropriate help."

Lemon says Missouri is the last state in the nation that does not provide peer counseling for first responders. Kansas has a regional peer counseling team, which made a big difference for police in Kansas City, Kan., when they lost two police officers in the line of duty in less than a year.

Establishing peer counselors will happen mostly through training at large agencies. Unions like the Fraternal Order of Police also may offer training to help smaller departments that can't budget for certifying the specialized support.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

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