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Door County's role in Bill 576: 'They're exposed to so many traumatic events over the course of their careers'

Posted at 5:18 PM, Dec 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 18:45:25-05
  • Video shows the process behind Bill 576
  • The Bill was written to help first responders stay as mentally fit as they are physically.
  • There are hopes to have it signed into law early in the new year.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

First responders across our state could be getting some help if a new bill that comes from right here in Door County gets passed. I'm your Door County neighborhood reporter, Katlyn Holt, with more on the bill and details if it becomes law in the new year.

"We want to make sure that our officers are not only physically healthy but mentally healthy," said Chief Deputy Patrick McCarty.

Door County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Patrick McCarty has been working on a bill to help first responders.

"In 2021, we brought some trainers to the Door County Sheriff's Office to train our Peer Support Team and at that point, I learned that there was no privilege protection for Peer Support Communications in Wisconsin," said Chief Deputy McCarty.

That’s when McCarty reached out to First Assembly District Representative Joel Kitchens and Kitchens authored bill 576.

"Our emergency response people, you know, EMTs, police, firefighters: they're exposed to so many traumatic events over the course of their careers, and very often they feel like they can't talk to anybody about it," said State Representative Kitchens.

The bill will require the Department of Justice to implement Peer Support Teams and Critical Incident Stress Management Services teams for law enforcement and emergency services across the state, helping responders remain as mentally healthy as they are physically.

"This allows them to have peer support, where they can talk to people that have been through similar situations and the big part of it is that it provides confidentiality, that they can talk to people and it's not going to be public," said State Representative Kitchens.

Chief Deputy McCarty says it has been a long process but also an educational one.

He and State Representative Kitchens say they're proud to have a part in this bill and hopefully see it put into law to help so many people.

"In October, I testified in the assembly, and it passed in the assembly on a voice vote and then last week, I testified at a Senate committee meeting. So, we're optimistic that it will go in front of the full Senate in in early January and then go to the governor to be signed," said Chief Deputy McCarty.

State Representative Kitchens said he encourages constituents to reach out with their ideas to help the community.