Today's Law As Amended

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AB-1116 Firefighters: peer support.(2019-2020)



SECTION 1.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Firefighters frequently respond to traumatic incidents and dangerous circumstances, including, but not limited to, fires, stabbings, gun battles and shootings, domestic violence, terrorist acts, riots, automobile accidents, airplane crashes, earthquakes, and other gruesome scenes that have a profound impact on their mental health. They are exposed to harmful substances, such as blood, urine, and vomit. They witness grave injuries, death, and grief. They are frequently placed in harm’s way, with significant risk of bodily harm or physical assault while performing the duties of their jobs.
(b) The traumatic and unpredictable nature of being a firefighter results in a high-stress working environment that can take an overwhelming mental, emotional, and physical toll on personnel. Chronic exposure to traumatic events and critical incidents increases the risk for post-traumatic stress and other stress-induced injuries.
(c) While most firefighters survive the traumas of their jobs, sadly, many experience the impacts of occupational stressors when off duty. The psychological and emotional stress of their profession can have a detrimental impact long after their shift is over.
(d) Such trauma-related injuries can become overwhelming, manifesting in post-traumatic stress, which results in substance use disorders and even, tragically, suicide. The fire service is four times more likely to experience a suicide than a “traditional” death in the line of duty in any year.
(e) Similar to military personnel, California’s firefighters face unique and uniquely dangerous risks in their mission to keep the public safe. These professionals rely on each other for survival while placing their lives on the line every day to protect the communities they serve.
(f) The culture of emergency services has often inhibited its personnel from asking for assistance in battling their psychological stress for fear it will cause ridicule, shame, or adverse job action.
(g) California has a responsibility to ensure that its emergency service and public safety agencies are equipped with the tools necessary to assist firefighters to mitigate the occupational stress that they experience as a result of performing their job duties.
(h) It is, therefore, the intent of the Legislature in enacting the Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Pilot Program to enable critically needed, confidential peer support and crisis referral services for California’s firefighters.
(i) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting the Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Pilot Program that a confidential communication made by emergency service personnel, a peer support team member, or crisis referral service staff remain confidential after the repeal of the pilot program.

SEC. 2.

 Article 21 (commencing with Section 8669) is added to Chapter 7 of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code, to read:

Article  21. Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Pilot Program
8669.
 This article shall be known, and may be cited, as the Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Pilot Program.
8669.1.
 For purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings:
(a) “Confidential communication” means any information, including, but not limited to, written or oral communication, transmitted between an emergency service personnel, a peer support team member, or a crisis hotline or crisis referral service staff member while the peer support team member provides peer support services or the crisis hotline or crisis referral service staff member provides crisis services, and in confidence by a means that, as far as the emergency service personnel is aware, does not disclose the information to third persons other than those who are present to further the interests of the emergency service personnel or those to whom disclosures are reasonably necessary for the transmission of the information or an accomplishment of the purposes for which the peer support team member is providing services.
(b) “Crisis referral services” include all public or private organizations that advise employees and volunteers of agencies employing emergency service personnel about consultation and treatment resources for personal problems, including mental health issues, chemical dependency, domestic violence, gambling, financial problems, and other personal crises. Crisis referral services do not include employee representative organizations, associations, or unions, or agencies owned or operated by employee representative organizations, associations, or unions.
(c) “Critical incident” means an actual or perceived event or situation that involves crisis, disaster, trauma, or emergency.
(d) “Critical incident stress” means the acute or cumulative psychological stress or trauma that emergency service personnel may experience in providing emergency services in response to a critical incident. The stress or trauma is an unusually strong emotional, cognitive, behavioral, or physical reaction that may interfere with normal functioning and could lead to post-traumatic stress injuries, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following:
(1) Physical and emotional illness.
(2) Failure of usual coping mechanisms.
(3) Loss of interest in the job or normal life activities.
(4) Personality changes.
(5) Loss of ability to function.
(6) Psychological disruption of personal life, including the person’s relationship with a spouse, child, or friend.
(e) “Emergency service personnel” means a firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, or dispatcher employed by the state or a city, county, city and county, district, or other political subdivision of the state.
(f) “Peer support services” include services provided by a peer support team or a peer support team member to emergency service personnel affected by a critical incident or the accumulation of witnessing multiple incidents. Peer support services assist emergency service personnel affected by a critical incident in coping with critical incident stress or mitigating reactions to critical incident stress to reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress injuries. Peer support services include all of the following:
(1) Precrisis education.
(2) Critical incident stress defusings.
(3) Critical incident stress debriefings.
(4) On-scene support services.
(5) One-on-one support services.
(6) Consultation.
(7) Referral services.
(8) Confidentiality obligations.
(9) The impact of toxic stress on health and well-being.
(10) Grief support.
(11) Substance abuse identification and approaches.
(12) Active listening skills.
(g) “Peer Support Labor-Management Committee” means a committee, created by an employer that elects to create a peer support program. The committee shall be composed of an equal number of representatives of the employer and the employees. The members of the committee who are employees shall be appointed by the employee organization that represents the majority of the participants in the peer support program. The Peer Support Labor-Management Committee of an employer operating statewide may agree upon additional, site-specific peer support labor-management committees as are deemed necessary for the effective operation of the program.
(h) “Peer support program” means a program to deliver peer support services to an agency’s employees consistent with this article and governed by peer support policies established by the Peer Support Labor-Management Committee and overseen by a peer support team clinician.
(i) “Peer support team” means a team or teams composed of emergency service personnel, hospital staff, clergy, and educators who have completed a peer support training course developed pursuant to Section 8669.4, and who have been appointed to the team by a Peer Support Labor-Management Committee or a site-specific peer support labor-management committee.
(j) “Peer support team clinician” means a licensed clinical professional who is a physician or psychologist designated to oversee a peer support program.
(k) “Peer support team member” means an individual who is a member of a peer support team and is specially trained to provide peer support services as a member of a peer support team.
8669.2.
 (a) An emergency service personnel, whether or not a party to the action, has a right to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between the emergency service personnel and a peer support team member in a civil, administrative, or arbitration proceeding.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a communication described in subdivision (a) may only be disclosed under the following circumstances:
(1) The peer support team member reasonably must make an appropriate referral of the emergency service personnel to, or consult about the emergency service personnel with, another member of the peer support team or a peer support team clinician associated with the peer support team.
(2) The peer support team member reasonably believes that disclosure is necessary to prevent death, substantial bodily harm, or commission of a crime.
(3) The peer support team member reasonably believes that disclosure is necessary pursuant to the peer support policies established by the Peer Support Labor-Management Committee.
(4) The emergency service personnel or the legal representative of the emergency service personnel expressly agrees in writing that the emergency service personnel communication may be disclosed.
(c) If the communication is disclosed pursuant to paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of subdivision (b), a peer support team member shall notify the emergency service personnel of the disclosure in writing.
8669.3.
 (a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (b), an emergency service personnel who provides peer support services as a member of a peer support team and has completed a training course described in Section 8669.4 shall not be liable for damages, including personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, or other loss related to an act, error, or omission in performing peer support services, unless the act, error, or omission constitutes gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
(b) Subdivision (a) does not apply to an action for medical malpractice.
8669.4.
 (a) The Office of Emergency Services shall contract with the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee to develop and deliver a fire service peer support training course and review and approve existing curriculum that meets the standards established in this article, that a peer support team member shall complete to provide peer support services for firefighters and to be eligible for the protections of this article.
(b) The fire service peer support training course shall be developed in consultation with individuals and organizations knowledgeable about fire service peer support services.
(c) The contract shall provide for the delivery of training by the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee through contracts with state, local, and regional public fire agencies.
8669.5.
 (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, an emergency service personnel, whether or not a party to the action, has a right to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between the emergency service personnel and a crisis hotline or crisis referral service in a civil, administrative, or arbitration proceeding.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a crisis hotline or crisis referral service may only disclose confidential information communicated by emergency service personnel to prevent reasonably certain death, substantial bodily harm, or commission of a crime.
(c) This article shall not be construed to limit an obligation to report instances of child abuse, as required by Section 11166 of the Penal Code.
8669.6.
 This article shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed.

SEC. 3.

 Article 22 (commencing with Section 8669.7) is added to Chapter 7 of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code, to read:

Article  22. Emergency Service Personnel
8669.7.
 (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, an emergency service personnel, whether or not a party to the action, has a right to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between the emergency service personnel and a peer support team member in a civil, administrative, or arbitration proceeding. A confidential communication described in this subdivision may only be disclosed if necessary to prevent reasonably certain death, substantial bodily harm, or commission of a crime, or if the emergency personnel or the legal representative of the emergency service personnel expressly agrees in writing that the communication may be disclosed.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this section, an emergency service personnel, whether or not a party to the action, has a right to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between the emergency service personnel and a crisis hotline or crisis referral service in a civil, administrative, or arbitration proceeding. However, a crisis hotline or crisis referral service may disclose confidential information described in this subdivision if necessary to prevent reasonably certain death, substantial bodily harm, or commission of a crime.
(c) For purposes of this section the following terms have the following meanings:
(1) “Confidential communication” means any information, including, but not limited to, written or oral communication, transmitted between an emergency service personnel, a peer support team member, or a crisis hotline or crisis referral service staff member while the peer support team member provides peer support services or the crisis hotline or crisis referral service staff member provides crisis services, and in confidence by a means that, as far as the emergency service personnel is aware, does not disclose the information to third persons other than those who are present to further the interests of the emergency service personnel or those to whom disclosures are reasonably necessary for the transmission of the information or an accomplishment of the purposes for which the peer support team member is providing services.
(2) “Crisis referral services” include all public or private organizations that advise employees and volunteers of agencies employing emergency service personnel about consultation and treatment resources for personal problems, including mental health issues, chemical dependency, domestic violence, gambling, financial problems, and other personal crises. Crisis referral services do not include employee representative organizations, associations, or unions, or agencies owned or operated by employee representative organizations, associations, or unions.
(3) “Critical incident” means an actual or perceived event or situation that involves crisis, disaster, trauma, or emergency.
(4) “Critical incident stress” means the acute or cumulative psychological stress or trauma that emergency service personnel may experience in providing emergency services in response to a critical incident. The stress or trauma is an unusually strong emotional, cognitive, behavioral, or physical reaction that may interfere with normal functioning and could lead to post-traumatic stress injuries, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following:
(A) Physical and emotional illness.
(B) Failure of usual coping mechanisms.
(C) Loss of interest in the job or normal life activities.
(D) Personality changes.
(E) Loss of ability to function.
(F) Psychological disruption of personal life, including the person’s relationship with a spouse, child, or friend.
(5) “Emergency service personnel” means a firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician, or dispatcher employed by the state or a city, county, city and county, district, or other political subdivision of the state.
(6) “Peer support services” include services provided by a peer support team or a peer support team member to emergency service personnel affected by a critical incident or the accumulation of witnessing multiple incidents. Peer support services assist emergency service personnel affected by a critical incident in coping with critical incident stress or mitigating reactions to critical incident stress to reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress injuries.
(7) “Peer support team” means a team or teams composed of emergency service personnel, hospital staff, clergy, and educators who have completed a peer support training course developed pursuant to former Section 8669.4, and who have been appointed to the team by a Peer Support Labor-Management Committee or a site-specific peer support labor-management committee.
(8) “Peer support team member” means an individual who is a member of a peer support team and is specially trained to provide peer support services as a member of a peer support team.
(d) This article shall not be construed to limit an obligation to report instances of child abuse, as required by Section 11166 of the Penal Code.
(e) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2025, and shall only apply to communications made by emergency service personnel or a peer support team member, or by emergency service personnel to a crisis hotline or crisis referral service, between January 1, 2020, and January 1, 2025, pursuant to the former Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Pilot Program established pursuant to former Article 21 (commencing with Section 8669) of Chapter 7 of Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code.