Gov. Pritzker Signs Legislation Advancing Safety and Mental Health Resources for First Responders
SPRINGFIELD — Governor JB Pritzker signed a package of legislation aimed at protecting the physical and mental health of first responders. The legislation strengthens Scott's Law to help keep first responders safe on the roads and improves mental health resources. The governor was joined by legislative and administration leaders as well as Lauren Frank, wife of State Trooper Brian Frank, in critical condition following a Scott's Law violation,
"When we are in crisis, first responders show up with the tools, skills, and courage to help us at a moment's notice - without hesitation. It's our responsibility to provide our heroes with the protection and resources they need to make their work safer," said Governor JB Pritzker. "I'm proud to sign these three measures today, but I want to remind you: our strongest asset in protecting our law enforcement is not a law on the books but our people on the ground. This is a wake-up call to every resident of Illinois. Your distracted driving could be someone else's worst nightmare - and no text is worth that."
"Words of encouragement and support are appreciated but words are not enough. Actions, large or small, are what count, and I know Governor Pritzker and our legislative sponsors understand that," said Brendan Kelly, Director of the Illinois State Police. "Troopers like Brian Frank and the first responders across our state are the few who quietly dedicate their careers and their lives to serving the public and helping others. They do it because they believe in it. These bills will help to support them as the serve us."
"In order to protect our first responders, drivers should always use caution, slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles along the roadway," said Matt Perez, Illinois State Fire Marshal. "With the signing of HB 3656, additional steps will be in place to enhance the safety of first responders and those involved in incidents along Illinois roadways."
Senate Bill 1913 allows courts to order community service as a form of punishment for violating Scott's Law, in addition to other penalties. Since 2002, Scott's Law says that drivers approaching a vehicle with their hazard lights on must slow down and move over. Earlier this year, ISP reported a total of 1,340 violations of the law during the 19-day period between February 18 and March 7. This new and enhanced law will protect the workers who shouldn't have to put their lives in danger pulling over on the highway to do their jobs. The law takes effect January 1, 2022.
"Scott's Law should be common sense, yet every day dozens of people are breaking it and putting officers at risk. This has to change. Writing a check for a fine doesn't seem to be enough for some people, so we need to do all we can to make sure the purpose of this law is heard loud and clear — and we do that by requiring people to give up their free time to do community service work," said State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest). "Far too many officers have been recklessly injured or killed simply for doing their jobs, and I thank Governor Pritzker for ensuring no other family has to endure the pain of a call that says their loved one was run down while protecting their community."
"First responders keep us safe and deserve our support," said State Representative Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville). "This new legislation will make sure we all do our part to keep them out of harm's way when they're doing their jobs."
House Bill 3656 further clarifies a driver's duty for how to respond to an emergency scene on the road, so that the protections of Scott's Law can be wielded to their fullest extent. It also establishes the Move Over Early Warning Task Force, which will study how to use 21st century technology to better help drivers safely navigate an emergency zone. Findings are due to the General Assembly in early 2023. Finally, the legislation adds that it is a factor in aggravation if a person commits a Scott's Law violation while using a handheld cell phone. The law takes effect January 1, 2022.
"First responders put themselves at risk every day, but we can help lower that risk," said Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago). "When you see flashing lights on the side of the road, move over—it's the law. This action can save the lives of those who are trying to protect us."
"The events of the last few days remind us of the incredible sacrifices first responders make for us," said State Representative Fran Hurley (D-Chicago). "We can't pass a law to prevent bad people from doing evil things to police officers, but we can enact new laws to support our first responders when they need it the most, and now is one of those times."
Senate Bill 1575 requires the creation of an online resource page with a comprehensive collection of mental health resources specifically geared toward first responders. It will include crisis services, wellness, trauma information, nutrition, stress reduction, anxiety, depression, violence prevention, suicide prevention and substance use. The Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Mental Health will lead the effort to build this resource, with a target launch date of January 2022. The law takes effect immediately.
"Our first responders are facing immense pressures and need real support systems so that they can attend to their health, both physical and mental," said State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago). "These measures ensure that first responders who need to address mental health issues, have resources readily available to help them."
"Our first responders face unique stresses on the job every day," said State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago). "By establishing this new database and resource page, we will provide our first responders and their families with confidential, easily accessible mental health resources that will help them cope with the exceptional demands of their work lives."