Legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Allen protecting the confidentiality of conversations between emergency services personnel and peer counselors will go to the governor for final approval after being passed by the Senate today. The bill, S-2840, also provides that peer counselors are privileged against examination as a witness in civil or criminal proceedings.
“Many police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians suffer high levels of stress, anxiety and depression from the risk their job places on their safety as well as their continual exposure to trauma,” said Allen (R-Burlington). “Sadly, too many shy away from utilizing valuable support services offered by their department because of a fear that what they share won’t be kept private or could hurt their career. Requiring confidentially will give more and more personnel the confidence to seek the help they need.”
The emergency services personnel covered under the bill include police, fire, emergency medical technicians, ambulance, first aid and rescue squad members, both professional and volunteer. Under the bill, information exchanged between a peer counselor and any emergency services personnel participating in an emergency assistance program is deemed confidential and is not to be disclosed.
Currently, some emergency services departments provide peer counseling, debriefing and support services for their members who experience traumatic incidents. The principal role of the peer counselors is to talk with the affected emergency services personnel about the incident.
“These types of departmental programs can not only help an officer perform better on the street but can more importantly save their lives,” Allen concluded. “Hopefully, with the assurance that they can talk with a peer counselor in confidentiality more and more personnel will be willing to participate in these extremely worthwhile programs.”
The bill was previously passed by the Assembly.