Lehigh Valley

Local firefighters union Allentown 302 president speaks against PTSD

ALLENTOWN, Pa., - It's been almost two weeks since a man blew himself up in a car in Allentown along with his 2-year-old child and another man.

"Typically, we're not going to a scene of that magnitude on a regular basis and thank goodness for that," said the president of the local firefighters union Allentown 302 Jeremy Warmkessel.

But first responders did respond to the explosion which Warmkessel says hit home.

"Anytime that you have a situation that involves children, no matter what the situation is, I think people tend to take it a little bit harder," said Warmkessel.

That incident, among others, is why Warmkessel, wrote an op-ed about PTSD in the Morning Call.

"Inside Allentown in the last 20 years we've suffered three suicides. So it's real and it's on a grand scale," said Warmkessel.

Warmkessel has been talking with state representative Mike Schlossberg about legislation, House Bill 2508, establishing a peer-to-peer support program, a toll-free hotline, a Critical Incident Stress Management program and trauma awareness training.

In a statement Schlossberg says "Jeremy Warmkessel's op-ed today couldn't have been more accurate. Our first responders deal with so much, and they deserve more than we are giving them now."

State Representative Pete Schweyer is also co-sponsoring another bill which will expand workers compensation for PTSD among first responders. Schweyer says in a statement "We don't think often enough of the impact of seeing these incidents first hand. It's important to break down the veneer of toughness and it is ok to ask for help. It is so very important."

Warmkessel says action at the state level will help change a culture originally intended not to change.

"We have a saying, '100 years of tradition not impeded by change' and unfortunately we need to change," said Warmkessel.

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