COLLINS, MS (WDAM) - A bill that would ensure first responders get the proper coverage for health-related illnesses is making it’s way through the state legislature.
The Mississippi First Responders Health and Safety Act, or Senate bill 2835, says “...when a first responder who has completed 10 or more years of service is unable to perform his regular duties....by reason of cancer, such cancer shall be classified as an occupational disease...” The bill has passed the Mississippi Senate and is currently in the House of Representatives.
Mississippi Fire Fighter Association President and Collins Fire Chief John Pope said he’s been fighting fires for over 20 year,s but even he can’t fight off the threats that come with the job.
“There’s ton of statistical data that’s been compiled over many years that firefighters are much more prone to cancer than the general public or other occupations,” said Pope.
According to the International Association of Firefighters, 76 percent of career firefighter line-of-duty deaths in 2018 were caused by cancer.
If passed, the bill would cover cancers such as bladder, brain, colon and liver cancer. Hearing loss, heart/lung disease and communicable diseases are also covered under the law.
Pope said that’s why he’s pushing for lawmakers to pass the bill.
“Basically, what this would do is provide coverage to the first responder dealing with cancer if it’s contacted while they’re still in service,” Pope said.
The bill states that the first responder will be entitled to all rights and benefits granted under state law.
Pope said Mississippi is one of three states in the country that does not have a law in place that would provide additional benefits to first responders.
Both career and volunteer firefighters and career police officers would be covered if the bill passes into law.