PIERRE, S.D. — The Mental Health of First Responders task force discussed how to provide mental health resources to all emergency responders, regardless of their location and age group.

Committee member Nick Carlson addressed that issue in a comment during the task force's meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15 in Pierre.

Carlson, a member of the Rapid City Fire Department, said there are three different generations of emergency responders respond differently to traumatic situation. "

"There's one generation that will suck it up and just go to work, the next generation says 'nah some of this stuff doesn't seem quite right we shouldn't go out and drink after we see a bad thing,' then you have the younger generation that just doesn't know how to deal with it because they've been given a ribbon for every event they've ever been on," Carlson said. "They don't know how to handle the disappointment.

"You're dealing with three generations on how to deal with it. The only way you're going to help the small departments and make sure we are trying to slow this process is to have a large state oversight group. How that funding process is, I have no idea. But I know you've got people who are willing to go and get that training if they can. We have people calling our peer support group asking for our guys to help. Our guys are getting burned out. And that's coming from a bigger city. We need the help."

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State Sen. VJ Smith, a Republican from Brookings and member of the task force, said if something is important enough, legislature seems to find the money.

"There needs to be a central clearing house in Pierre or wherever, a paid person, maybe a small staff in order to make this thing work. It cannot be done on a volunteer basis, it’s way too large of a load," Smith said.

"Somebody has to work on this day in and day out in order for this to be effective. Either we’re going to make this a priority by creating this a position or all the efforts or what we’ve done here for the last three meetings will be just another nice time talking about, we get a little educated, and we move on. I think we need to make this a priority and it’s a matter of putting your money where your mouth is."

The task force will meet again on Nov. 12 and Dec. 10 to hammer out what type of legislation will be brought to the 2021 session along with how that will be funded.

Contact Shannon Marvel at smarvel@forumcomm.com or 605-350-8355.