SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – State Senate Bill 24, heading to Governor Parson’s desk re-classifies 911 communicators as first responders in the state of Missouri.
“We’re really grateful that this is happening and grateful [to] the people that have gotten it accomplished.” Dispatcher Stacy Blair said.
Staff members have considered themselves unofficial first responders for years, even before this expected official designation.
“We’ve always thought that telecommunications to be the ‘first’ first responder because if that 911 operator doesn’t do their job and get the information correctly and pass it on, none of the other [responders] are going to get there.” Associate Director of Greene County 911 J.R. Webb said.
Previously, dispatchers had been classified as administrative work or clerical work.
“A coworker of mine, he said his wife works as a receptionist at a mental health facility and she’s never once taken a phone call where you can hear gunshots in the background,” Blair said.
State Senate Bill 24 would expand a fund centered around mental health help for first responders.
“[The bill], it expanded [the fund] to telecommunicators with their reclassification as first responders and gives them some opportunity, extra opportunities for some mental health treatment and care,” Webb said. “This is a very, very high-stress profession, and PTSD and other things do happen here, too.”
In a post-legislative session announcement, State Senator Lincoln Hough said of the bill, “will widen the current critical illness fund and address post-traumatic stress disorder.”
One hope with the classification is that it will help curb turnover and short-staffing.
“Whenever it’s been reclassified and made official, I think that people might be more interested,” Blair said.
“In addition, the bill this year reappropriates 18 million for Next Generation 911 and another approximately 10 million to go over the top of that to try to bring Next Generation 911 to everywhere in the state of Missouri,” Webb said.