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Missouri governor to sign bill providing peer counseling to first responders

Posted at 4:41 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 19:00:10-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What has been a law in the state of Kansas for three years, only needs the governor's signature to become a law across the state line. 

Since 2015, Missouri has been working on a bill that would help first responders better cope with trauma or stress they encounter everyday on the job. 

"Today, we just found out that a child shot a cop, and in Texas we had a child walk into a school this morning and shoot students," said Brad Lemon, President of Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police

Lemon said it is days like these that make a first responders job even more stressful. 

"There are things going on in today's society that are new and difficult to deal with," said Lemon. 

In his nearly 27 years working in law enforcement, Lemon said first responders have not always been able to openly talk about what they've experienced. He said many fear others won't see them as fit for the job. 
"You don't go to work and talk about it because god forbid somebody think you might need help," said Lemon. 

After three years of hard work, House Bill 1355, or the "Peer Counseling Bill," has passed in both the Senate and the House. The bill is currently on it's way to Missouri Governor Eric Greitens desk to be signed. 

"First responders across the state needed a mechanism to be able to talk to their peers in a privileged setting to help real conversations and feel comfortable to say, I think I really need help," said Lemon. 

The law will allow first responders to talk to a peer counselor in confidence with anything they may be struggling with. 

"Our intent is to hear them, understand what they're going through, help them for what we can help them through, and then get them to the trained professionals who can do the bulk of the work that needs to be done," said Lemon. 

Once the bill is signed, it would become a law on August 28, 2018.

"Come August 29th, I hope that we'll have a policy in place with the police department and hope to be a model for other departments in the area that haven't been able to get their policies up to speed yet," said Lemon.  

Lemon said just because first responders are called on a lot of similar scenes, that does not make them immune. 

"You know, if we can save just one person, I mean, the bill worked," said Lemon. 

Currently, Missouri is the only state in the country that does not provide peer counseling for first responders.