Cleveland EMS pack city council meeting to fight for mental health services

Published: Jan. 6, 2020 at 10:20 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - EMS employees packed Monday night’s Cleveland City Council meeting to fight for mental health care services.

A judge has already approved these mental health services for the city’s EMS employees.

While the council cannot do anything about it, the city’s administration has the power to appeal it, and many EMS employees fear that will happen.

Cleveland EMS employees packed tonight’s council meeting. They say their mental health is at stake and the city is delaying them getting the help they need. More tonight at 10 and 11 on 19 News.

Posted by Kelly Kennedy on Monday, January 6, 2020

“We do see some terrible things at work and that’s something we signed up for, but also we signed up for taking care of ourselves mentally and physically. And we need to go home to our families at night and be productive members of our family as well, and that’s hard to do when you have things going on,” said Cleveland paramedic, Mark Angell.

For more than a year, 19 News Investigates has been following Cleveland EMS employees fight to get post-traumatic stress disorder support in their new contract. Union President and Paramedic Paul Melhiush says they want their employees to be cleared by a psychiatrist before going back on the job after a traumatic event. As it stands now it is just up to their supervisor to clear them.

“We had one person commit suicide a couple of years ago and we wish we would’ve caught that,” said Melhuish.

A couple of weeks ago a judge approved some of these mental health protections that would allow EMS workers to take paid leave in certain circumstances including taking a call for a child’s death, mass casualties, and responding to the death of a family member or coworker. Since then, they’ve heard nothing from Cleveland City Hall, and the city does have the power to appeal the judge’s ruling.

“We can’t keep on looking back,” Melhuish said. “We have to look forward, get people right, get their mental health taken care of. We won’t have as many people try to quit, try to leave, try to hurt themselves, we’d have better family relationships.”

Some council members did acknowledge the paramedics and EMTs in the room.

“To our colleagues in public service who are out there every day I just want you to know council has received your emails,” Councilman Matt Zone said to the dozens of paramedics in the chambers. “We have heard you, we recognize your presence, and thank you for being here."

19 News asked the city’s administration if they planned on appealing this. The law director told us she had no comment. The deadline for the city to appeal is Jan. 13. The group of EMS employees plans on protesting on Jan. 15 and 16.

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