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Dallas firefighters and all other city employees will now receive mental health leave

A yellow firefighter hat lays on a table ahead of a roundtable discussion at a Dallas fire station.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
A yellow firefighter hat lays on a table ahead of a roundtable discussion, led by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, on public safety and mental health programs, at Dallas Fire Station 27, on Feb. 23, 2022.

Dallas city employees who experience a traumatic event on the job will now have hours of paid time off.

The city council unanimously approved a measure to expand mental health benefits to all city employees at a meeting Wednesday.

“We've seen an increase in demand for services to support the mental well-being for employees, including those in public safety departments, as has been evident in recent months,” said city manager T.C. Broadnax.

The approved ordinance states emergency responders can get up to 60 hours in paid mental health leave. That includes city fire fighters, who’ve Broadnax said have reached out to him personally expressing their need for mental health leave.

"[Dallas Fire Rescue] members face stressful situations and sometimes traumatic events that place them at a higher risk for mental health problems such as depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Broadnax said.

The Dallas Police Department currently has a team of staff psychologists. Broadnax said he would like to extend a similar support structure to DFR.

All other city employees will get up to 40 hours of mental health leave. The need or request for mental health leave must be verified ahead of time by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.

The city defines a traumatic event as “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or physical abuse.” And it does not include conflicts or disagreements at work.

“Through our vote today, we are sending our firefighters and other city employees a clear message: when you take care of us, we will take care of you,” said Mayor Eric Johnson.

The mental health leave is projected to cost about $705,600 annually.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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