As Minnesota lawmakers meet to kick off the 2021 legislative session, we’re urging them to support the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program (HF0377) and prioritize funding to combat the life-threatening health issues facing Minnesota’s fire service.
Minnesota ranks 48th in the nation in per-capita fire service spending. Critical funding shortages make it difficult for fire service leaders to prioritize firefighter health measures and equipment, such as department-wide health check-ups, gear-cleaning tools and mental health resources. That’s why MnFIRE is lobbying Minnesota legislators for $7.3 million to ensure all of our state’s 20,000 firefighters have access to the care needed to handle a cardiac, emotional trauma or cancer diagnosis through the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program.
If the Minnesota legislature appropriates funding, the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program will:
- Provide a statewide “Critical Care” policy for all Minnesota firefighters which covers diagnoses of cancer or cardiac issues. Coverage amount is $30,000 per diagnosis.
- Create a MnFIRE Assistance Program (MnAP) for all Minnesota firefighters targeting emotional trauma issues unique to the fire service.
- Ensure additional MnFIREAP support for firefighters who remain in need beyond initial treatment sessions.
- Support ongoing annual MnFIRE Awareness training for every Minnesota firefighter. Changing the current culture and practices in the Minnesota Fire Service is integral to long-term reduction of the incidences of cardiac, emotional trauma and cancer.
- Sustain annual MnFIRE Awareness Training for medical doctors and mental health professionals statewide so all firefighters in Minnesota have regional access to informed and trained medical professionals to help with prevention, mitigation, diagnosis and treatment of cardiac, emotional trauma and cancer.
Bottom line – the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program will ensure all Minnesota firefighters can access the care they need for occupational health issues. It is soon to be introduced by Rep. Cheryl Youakim in the House and by Sen. Jeff Howe in the Senate.
Another focus for MnFIRE this legislative session is the Cancer Line-of-Duty-Death Survivor Benefit.
According to the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, one in five Minnesota fire departments have reported at least one firefighter diagnosed with cancer. Minnesota has considered cancer to be an occupational disease since 1988 but still does not recognize firefighters, who by statute would be eligible for presumptive workers compensation benefits, that pass away from cancer while still employed as Line-of-Duty Deaths (LODD). The end result is that families who have lost a loved one due to a duty related illness do not receive any compensation, even though their firefighter made the ultimate sacrifice for their community.
At least 20 other states recognize firefighter deaths from cancer to be an occupational illness by statute. Minnesota firefighters deserve to know that if they should die as a result of occupational cancer that their families will be compensated.
Contact your state legislators today to let them know you support the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program and the Cancer Line-of-Duty-Death Survivor Benefit.