Dallas City Council approves plan to offer mental health leave for firefighters, other city employees

Dallas Fire & Rescue vehicle – Photo by Jason Lawrence/Wikimedia

 

Special to The Dallas Examiner

 

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to make mental health leave available to all city employees.

Previously, after the passage of a new state law, licensed peace officers were the only city employees who could take mental health leave after experiencing a traumatic incident while on the job. But under the revised approved personnel rules, firefighters can take up to 60 hours of paid leave for mental health, while other employees can take up to 40 hours.

Mayor Eric Johnson asked the Public Safety Committee to discuss extending mental health leave to firefighters because, like police officers, they experience traumatic incidents in their life-saving line of work.

The Public Safety Committee promptly passed the mayor’s proposal and asked the Government Performance and Financial Management Committee to look at extending leave to other city employees.

The committee backed the plan, which is projected to cost about $705,600 annually – $592,782 of which will come from the general fund. The total cost for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends in October, is estimated to be $411,601.

“We must prioritize the mental health of our firefighters and all of our city employees who provide critical services to our residents,” Johnson said. “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.”

Council members also lauded the initiative, saying it would help destigmatize mental health issues and build a more resilient workforce. And before the vote, Public Safety Committee Chairman Adam McGough read a letter from the widow of a firefighter who had committed suicide.

Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade, who advocated for the proposal, expressed gratitude for the vote.

“Our Dallas firefighters thank Mayor Johnson and all of the City Council for extending mental health leave to all city employees,” McDade said. “Dallas firefighters work tirelessly to serve and help the residents and visitors of Dallas, but sometimes we need someone to help us and pull us up when we are struggling. We are very appreciative of mental health being a priority of the City of Dallas.

“As we recover from the stresses of the pandemic, we are competing to attract and retain talent just like everyone else. These benefits will help us do so and will help make our city and its families healthier and stronger.”

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