NEW JERSEY – Senator Anthony M. Bucco’s legislative initiatives to help frontline healthcare workers and first responders who are suffering from the “invisible wounds” of battling COVID-19 has passed the Senate Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee.
Published reports indicate an alarming rise in PTSD and other mental health issues among medical workers who have fought against the coronavirus now for months, Bucco said.
“While the number of COVID cases has fallen, the pain and trauma experienced by those fighting on the front lines show no signs of stopping,” Bucco (R-25) said. “We need to protect our first responders with a variety of resources and tools to help them overcome this overwhelming crisis and stay grounded. Our healthcare heroes heeded the call and put themselves at risk during our time of great need, now it’s our duty to serve them.”
Bucco’s first bill, S-2447, in coordination with the Department of Human Services, would create a toll-free helpline for first responders and healthcare workers experiencing mental health issues, including PTSD.
The legislation would require the operators of the helpline to be familiar with the mental health issues commonly experienced by first responders, healthcare workers, and their families, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. They may also be trained to provide counseling services involving marriage and family life, personal stress management, and other emotional or psychological conditions that may adversely affect the well-being of frontline health workers.
The tragic suicide of a NYC emergency room doctor who treated COVID-19 patients and caught it herself highlights the need to ensure mental health services are available to healthcare workers, Bucco said.
Bucco’s second piece of legislation, S-2490, would require healthcare facilities to screen healthcare workers and first responders for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder related to COVID-19 outbreak.
Recent records indicate that mental health issues among doctors and nurses were high even prior to the pandemic. Bucco believes the COVID outbreak has only aggravated the burnout, Bucco said.
His third legislative measure, S-2492, would establish a public awareness campaign concerning programs and services for first responders and healthcare workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Heroes need help, too,” Bucco said. “A silent struggle with PTSD or depression can turn deadly without the proper support. These initiatives will help ensure that our hospital workers, first responders and their families have access to the mental health services they need to cope with the crushing trauma and stress they have endured as a result of this epidemic.”