This week, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved mental health leave for all of the city’s employees.
Until now, only licensed peace officers could take mental health leave after they experienced a traumatic incident on the job.
Under the new rules, the city’s firefighters can take up to 60 hours of paid leave for mental health, and other employees can take up to 40 hours. The move opens up mental health leave for more than 8,000 city employees.
The added time off is expected to cost the city another $705,600 a year. Most of that, $592,782, will come from the city’s general fund.
“We must prioritize the mental health of our firefighters and all of our city employees who provide critical services to our residents,” Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement. “Through our vote today, we are sending our firefighters and other city employees a clear message: when you take care of us, we will take care of you.”
Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade also advocated for the mental health leave. "Dallas firefighters work tirelessly to serve and help the residents and visitors of Dallas, but sometimes we need someone to help us and pull us up when we are struggling,” McDade said in a statement. “We are very appreciative of mental health being a priority of the City of Dallas."
Jason Evans, a spokesperson with Dallas Fire-Rescue, said DFR has members that suffer from mental illness like PTSD. They’re not unlike other fire/EMS and police departments in that way. DFR offers counseling services through its Resiliency Program. Now, they’ll also be able to offer paid mental health leave.
During the last budget cycle, the city also approved paid parental leave for its employees. “As we recover from the stresses of the pandemic, we are competing to attract and retain talent just like everyone else,” Johnson said. “These benefits will help us do so and will help make our city and its families healthier and stronger.”
Other North Texas city’s have made similar moves. Just last month, Mesquite voted to expand mental health benefits for all of its employees.
“Knowing that firefighters, public safety dispatchers and other civilian employees are likely to experience traumatic events while providing service, it was important to our City Council to provide coverage to all City employees,” City Manager Cliff Keheley said in a statement. “The health and safety of our employees is of the highest priority for our organization.”
Now, any full time city of Mesquite employee involved in a traumatic incident can get counseling from a mental health professional without using vacation days or sick leave benefits. “The City of Mesquite is committed to safeguarding the mental health and emotional well-being of all City employees,” Keheley said.