Pritzker signs law aimed at improving mental health resources for first responders

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation on Thursday strengthening Scott’s Law and improving mental health resources to first responders.

“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 Pritzker.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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