SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Cunningham advanced two key initiatives to expand family counseling services and disability benefits for first responders.

“First responders have to overcome an enormous amount of stress on the job, and sometimes that stress can extend to the entire family,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs. “This initiative will strengthen their access to family counseling services, which can be used as a tool to help overcome some of that work-related stress.” 

House Bill 4460 would require every self-insured county and municipality across the state to provide coverage for marriage and couples counseling for firefighters and police officers. Coverage for marriage or couples counseling is not currently required in insurance plans for first responders because it is not considered a diagnosable mental health condition.

House Bill 5104 aims to expand the net of police officers, firefighters and paramedics who can receive benefits after becoming disabled due to contracting COVID-19 on the job. This measure is an expansion of a law Cunningham led last year to grant disability pension benefits to Chicago first responders who contracted COVID-19 before vaccines were available. 

“After passing a law to fix the injustice done to Chicago Police Det. Sgt. Joaquin Mendoza, we discovered that we needed to expand the net so no first responders are left twisting in the wind,” said Cunningham. “If a first responder is unable to return to work because of COVID-19, they deserve proper benefits that reflect their sacrifice to our state and community.”

House Bill 4460 and House Bill 5104 passed their respective committees this week and await further consideration before the full Senate.