COLUMBUS – Today, an Ohio House committee began hearings on legislation to improve support for first responders and law enforcement.
HB 545 would prohibit a peer support team member from testifying concerning a communication received from an individual receiving peer support services or the team member’s advice to an individual receiving the services.
“Coming from the Fire Service, each individual handles dealing with these emergency situations differently,” said Baldridge. “The key component to this bill is addressing the fact that others may need more help. We should make sure that confidentially is there for these folks.”
Peer support services include providing emotional, social or practical knowledge and experience to peers and helping navigate resources pertaining to mental health and other subject maters. The support may come in the form of a consultation, risk assessment, referral or on-site intervention.
Abrams noted how first responders may experience chronic stress situations multiples times throughout their careers.
“In protecting our communities, our first responders not only risk their lives, but their mental health. HB 545 enhances Ohio’s current peer support system to provide necessary mental health services to the folks that need it most,” she said.
To receive testimonial privilege, a peer support team member must be employed or formerly employed as:
- A peace officer, firefighter, emergency medical worker, or corrections officer
- A dispatcher for peace officers, firefighters, or emergency medical workers
- A civilian employee of an entity that employs peace officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers, or corrections officers
- A retired peace officer, firefighter, emergency medical worker, corrections officer, or dispatcher acting with the approval of the retiree’s former employer or the approval of the employer appointing the peer support team.
In addition to work experience, an individual must also receive no less than 16 hours of basic peer support training and be appointed by an employer, union or charitable organization consisting of law enforcement professionals and first responders.
Exceptions to the privileged communications can be made if the communication or advice from a peer support team member indicates clear and present danger, if an individual receiving the services has given consent, or if the individual who received services is deceased and consent is provided by family or executor of the deceased estate.
The bill awaits further hearings in the House Civil Justice Committee.