Ky. law provides time off for firefighters, cops after critical incidents

Gov. Andy Beshear signed House Bill 562, which allows a 48-hour leave following a critical incident


By Leila Merrill

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law a bill that aims to help firefighters and police officers manage critical incidents. 

House Bill 562, ceremonially signed last week, provides firefighters and law enforcement officers a 48-hour leave after they are involved in a critical incident, WHAS11 reported. The bill also redefines a critical incident as any event that has a stressful impact sufficient enough to overwhelm a one’s usual coping strategies. These include officer-involved shootings, serious vehicle crashes, the death of a colleague or partner and other circumstances. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear ceremonially signed House Bill 562  last week. The new law supports the mental health of firefighters and law enforcement officers by letting them take a 48-hour leave after a critical incident such as the death of a colleague.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear ceremonially signed House Bill 562  last week. The new law supports the mental health of firefighters and law enforcement officers by letting them take a 48-hour leave after a critical incident such as the death of a colleague. (File photo/Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press)

Brian O'Neil, president of the Louisville Professional Firefighters, said that the measure supports first responders’ mental health needs: "You’re supposed to just suck it up and be tough and deal with everything. And certainly, we do. We’ve done a lot better over the last several years with trying to do away with the stigma.”

Unaddressed workplace trauma can have unhealthy effects, O'Neil added: “Even if you might try to lie to yourself and say you’re doing okay, the body remembers. Every time we take a step forward in recognizing the legitimacy of these issues it gets us closer to normalizing.” 

The law does not require that the time off be paid. O'Neil said he hopes employers will support a requirement for compensation. 

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