By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – April, 2017
My prior service in the U. S. Army has influenced my public service in many ways, very significantly in my understanding of threats, sacrifices and increasing challenges faced by our public safety officers.
This past legislative session I was honored to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Committee where I was able to hear meaningful testimony from many first responders. This testimony served as the basis for legislation I am filing this session.
Additional training for police officers responding to mental health crises
Partly because of the closure of inpatient public psychiatric facilities, and a diminishing number of inpatient beds available, approximately 2 million individuals with mental illness are booked into jails each year. Approximately, 15% of men and 30% of women in our local jails have a serious mental illness.
The legislation I have filed with the Massachusetts National Alliance on Mental Illness would expand the capabilities of the Municipal Police Training Committee that trains new recruits and sets a goal to train 25% of all municipal police officers using the most current methods to more effectively interact with those suffering from mental illness.
This training shall improve safety, both for police officers and for those mentally ill they interact with. Furthermore, the training should also reduce the stress felt by an officer when dealing with someone undergoing a mental health crisis.
Cancer risks for firefighters
Research continues to confirm what too many families of firefighters already know, which is that they face substantial cancer risks from burning household items and the residue from that left in their protective clothing. As Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn pointed out to the Boston Globe this month, 190 city firefighters have died of cancer since 1990. The unfortunate reason has a lot to do with the “turnout gear” that firefighters must frantically put on before heading to a fire. Toxic chemicals are absorbed by the turnout gear and during a fire, a 5 degree increase in temperature, leads to a 400% increase in skin absorption. To reduce the cancer risk, it is critical that firefighters wash their turnout gear immediately or, better still, have a second clean set of gear to use if called to another fire while their soiled set is washed.
Unfortunately, industrial grade washers are often too expensive for municipalities to afford. Further, it is not reasonable or practical to expect firefighters to install industrial grade washers and dryers at home either.
First, legislation filed requires that insurers provide and cover cancer screening for firefighters. Secondly, I also filed legislation to have the state implement a bulk purchasing program to reduce procurement costs that will significantly assist municipalities in their purchase of industrial washing machines capable of washing the turnout gear that our firefighters depend on.