GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — State lawmakers are introducing a bill that would help establish a supplemental insurance policy for first responders diagnosed with mental health issues.

Some of those issues include anxiety, depression or trauma and stress-related disorders.

Senator Jim Perry (R), one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said it aims to create a special sector and a new level of mental health benefit offerings to help them overcome those challenges.

“We realize there could be a need for a special classification like this to create supplemental insurance dealing with mental health and related issues,” Perry said.

Onslow County Sheriff Chris Thomas said the public underestimate the kinds of violence first responders are exposed to.

“Law enforcement officers on average experience 400-600 traumatic events a year,” Thomas said. “So it can have an effect on an individual’s mental health, create anxiety and stress.”

Under Senate Bill 601, the benefits under this plan would include medical costs reimbursements for out-of-pocket medical expenses, salary and disability benefits for first responders.

“A lot of times there are costs associated with care that aren’t born by insurance,” Perry said. “It can be out of pocket, it can be copays. You can structure an insurance policy to cover just about anything as much as you want it covered.”

Tommy Brady, the fire chief for the Farmville Fire Department, said a couple of members of his team were affected by experiencing trauma. He said those members had a hard time due to not having insurance.

“The person didn’t have insurance so they didn’t necessarily have coverage to go see if you have to pay a copay,” Brady said. “So we had to find ways to get it funded for the person to be able to go. That was a big factor, being able to fund it for them so they could go and seek the help that they needed.”

Perry said right now, the bill is in the beginning stages of being introduced and the benefits proposed in the bill are subject to change or be amended. The bill would have to go to the NC boards of commerce and insurance for a hearing before going to the rules committee and the N Senate floor for a vote.

Click here to view the proposed bill.