Gov. Katie Hobbs signs bill giving Arizona 911 dispatchers unlimited mental health services
Aug 25, 2023, 2:00 PM
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed House Bill 2717 which will provide the state’s 911 operators unlimited mental health services.
Operators can use services without the fear of running out of sessions or having to pay for extra sessions out of pocket.
The signing of the bill gives 911 operators the same mental health benefits as police officers and firefighters.
“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.”
At a press conference Friday, Hobbs expressed the importance of having access to the services that would entice people interested in the field.
“We must give them the tools. They need to thrive outside of the workplace as well. Especially in this field, that includes the necessary health care services that promote emotional and mental well-being of our dispatchers,” Hobbs said.
Advocating for mental health support
At the press conference, Frank Piccioli, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local with the city of Phoenix and Arizona EMS Workers United, expressed that the decisions made by 911 dispatchers bear on their souls when dealing with issues of life and death.
“These needed resources would help deal with the PTSD issues that are so prevalent in our group,” Piccioli said at the press conference. “These people are truly the first of the First Responders.”
Melody Hernandez, Valley paramedic and bill sponsor, echoed Piccioli’s sentiments.
“They’re the ones who answer the calls to begin with, and after they work through the screaming and the anxiety and the pressure that they face from the community that they are speaking to,” Hernandez said at the press conference.
“They are oftentimes, once they leave the call, they are left with the pain of those calls, they’re left with the memories of those calls and like many of them, I am also diagnosed with PTSD and it is one of the most difficult diseases to heal from to deal with on a daily basis.”
Hernandez went on to say the signing of the bill was the most important signature they could have gotten in the legislature.