Chicago first responders

Chicago Ordinance Would Provide Help to Families of First Responders Who Die by Suicide

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Chicago lawmakers are taking a closer look at the growing problem of suicide among the city’s first responders, and are taking steps to help provide families with financial and emotional support through a new ordinance.

That ordinance, introduced by Ald. Matthew O’Shea, would pay surviving spouses with one year of salary, as well as up to $40,000 to help them with health care, education or housing expenses.

O’Shea says that all 49 of his colleagues in the Chicago City Council signed on to cosponsor the ordinance.

Julie Troglia, whose husband Jeffrey died by suicide in 2019, says that his death completely upended their family’s lives.

“Our life has changed so much,” she said. “You’re in so much shock and saddened, so you don’t even realize it happened in your life, and we shouldn’t lose what he worked so hard for.”

Jeffrey Troglia was a 17-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He died in March 2019, and his wife says that first responders need to be given access to more time off, and more health resources, to help them cope with the demands of their jobs.

“These men and women need to rest,” she said. “They cannot continue 12-to-14 hours a day with no days off.”

According to O’Shea’s office, first responders are at a higher risk of experiencing Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their exposure to traumatic events. In 2021, there were 632 law enforcement deaths in the United States, and nearly 25% of those were the result of suicide.

Stacy Escamilla says that her husband Paul died by suicide in Sept. 2019.

“Police officers have been vilified, and he felt he had a target on his back,” she said. “They’re people before they’re first responders. They still come home and go grocery shopping, and coach the kids’ teams. It’s hard to turn off what they’ve seen and witnessed.”

O’Shea says that more than 20 first responders in Chicago have died by suicide, and says that he hopes his ordinance can go into effect soon to help those families impacted.

“My hope is we have a meeting in finance in coming weeks and cast this vote at the May City Council meeting,” he said.

O’Shea joined Troglia and hundreds of others at a Pilsen gala to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has worked with the Chicago Police Department since 2004.

“There’s a lot of hunger from these officers to get well and to get services,” NAMI Chicago’s Alexa James said.

Troglia hopes that first responders in the city can get access to the care that they need.

“They see so much trauma on a daily basis, and that is something you cannot push down and put aside,” she said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Contact Us