The Dallas City Council voted unanimously on March 9 to approve paid mental health leave for 8,000 employees, including firefighters and 911 dispatchers. 

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the Dallas Fire Association wanted paid mental health leave for its workers due to the stress, trauma, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) many suffered from while on the job.

“The cumulative effect of regularly caring for the broken bodies and wounded minds of victims and their families – is thought to have a negative psychological impact on firefighters’ own mental health,” said the U.S. Fire Administration. “Previous studies have looked at firefighter mental health challenges in the context of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which relies on assessment instruments attuned to one particular traumatic event.”

The CDC says law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. Specifically, Emergency Medical Technician (EMS) providers are 1.39 times more likely to die by suicide than civilians.

Heather Seymour Crutcher’s husband, Dallas Fire Captain John “Kenny” Crutcher, passed away by suicide in November 2021. She believes the new approval of paid mental health leave is crucial in saving the lives of first responders.

Councilmember Adam McGough read a letter from the widow in which she described the stress that her husband struggled to cope with.

“He needed a day off. Or several, really, because he cared as much as he did,” wrote Crutcher. “I personally cannot imagine storing a lifetime of these bad calls in my memory banks without some extra time to think them through, figure out how to cope with them, and to remember to value what is good in life.”

In October, the Dallas City Council approved five days or up to forty hours of paid mental health leave to include peace officers impacted by on-duty trauma after a state law went into effect.

The new mandate goes into effect immediately. If 800 of the 8,000 employees utilize the leave, it is estimated to be a total of at least $705,000.

City employees will have up to 40 hours of mental health leave, and firefighters are eligible for up to 60 hours per fiscal year. Employees cannot accumulate the paid time, and it does not roll over to future years. A licensed psychiatrist or psychologist will have to verify the need for mental health leave.