Interior to launch mental health program for wildland firefighters, increase wildfire spending

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The U.S. Department of the Interior will create a health and wellness program for wildland firefighters and increase firefighting spending by $103 million in fiscal year 2022, the department announced Friday in a statement. Exclusive to the States Newsroom.

The additional funding, to be announced in Boise, Idaho, by Secretary Deb Haaland, is part of the $1.5 billion in last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law signed into law by President Joe Biden that aims to fight wildfires, who also spearheaded the creation of mental health services for wildland firefighters.

The bulk of the funding, $80.9 million, will be used to expand and accelerate fuels management work in fire-prone areas and help the department reach 2 million more acres than last year. an increase of about 30%, according to Interior. Another $19.4 million will be used to rehabilitate areas after they burn.

The health program was also a product of the Infrastructure Act, which required the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create programs to address mental health needs, including treatment for post-stress stress disorder. traumatic.

The health program will hire people to respond to critical incidents that require stress management. It will also add health care capacity in four inland offices – Indian Affairs, Lands Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service – to establish a new system of trauma-focused support services. on early intervention.

“Wildland firefighters work in incredibly stressful environments that can significantly harm their overall health and well-being, and those who love them,” Haaland said in a statement.

“A targeted interagency effort to provide trauma-informed mental health care is essential.”

The USDA Forest Service employs most federal firefighters, but about 5,000 work for interior offices. Federal Forest Firefighters do not receive certain health benefits which are common to those of municipal services.

The Department of the Interior will also announce $3.1 million for the Joint Fire Science Program, a collaboration with the USDA. The funding will support research into firefighter mental health, landscape resilience and wildfire prevention methods.

Part of the funding will also be used to create a wildfire hazard mapping and mitigation tool, which Interior is developing with the USDA and the Association of State Foresters.

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