Senators Tackle Peer Support Privilege for First Responders

by Hannah Garcia

As a climbing suicide rate has plagued the state for the last few years, lawmakers are hoping a relatively small alteration to statutory protections will bolster intervention efforts for those in close proximity to trauma and self-harm — Colorado’s first responders.

Under current Colorado law, first responders are afforded certain protections against testifying in court when speaking to members of their peer support teams — colleagues within an agency trained to help police, fire and medical personnel handle job-related trauma — without the consent of the person seeking those services.

However, those communications are only privileged for one-on-one communication, meaning it would not apply during group sessions.

House Bill 1032, which passed the lower chamber on Feb. 2 and sailed unanimously through the Senate Judiciary Committee last Monday, would expand the evidentiary privilege by removing the individual restriction and allowing it to apply during group meetings, a perhaps innocuous statutory change that first responders who testified in favor of the bill would move metaphorical mountains for how their departments internally handle trauma.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the March 6, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.