First Full Year of Hometown Heroes Assistance Program Delivers Unprecedented Health Protection and Support to Minnesota Firefighters – Crookston Times

Legislation funds an assistance program, peer support, critical care insurance, training for all Minnesota firefighters – at no cost to them or their communities

Belmont Partners Submitted

MINNEAPOLIS (August 2022) – Since being passed in July 2021, the nation’s most comprehensive firefighter wellness legislation has supported hundreds of peer support calls and visits with mental health providers, trained the majority of firefighters in the state on their occupational health risks, and paid out nearly $800,000 in critical illness claims – all at no cost to firefighters, their departments or their communities.

The Hometown Heroes Assistance Program dedicates $4 million annually to ensure that every firefighter in Minnesota has access to the education, prevention and care needed to manage heart trauma, emotional trauma or a cancer diagnosis. In the 12 months since the legislation came into effect, the program has changed – and saved – lives by providing:

• 721 firefighter-focused mental health care providers across the state to provide up to five free counseling sessions to firefighters and their families. To date, the MnFIRE assistance program has facilitated 272 provider visits.

• An expanded network of trained MnFIRE peer helpers, who responded to 430 calls.

• 52 critical illness claims paid, totaling $773,000. Illnesses include full benefit cancer, COVID-19, post-traumatic stress disorder, skin cancer, other cancers, ALS, heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, heart disease, l kidney failure, coronary heart disease requiring surgery and other mental disorders.

• 512 MnFIRE training sessions with 13,929 firefighters.

This major step in the fight for the health of Minnesota firefighters has provided support to firefighters in 85 of Minnesota’s 87 counties and combines three vital elements, all led by the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE): an assistance program with expanded emotional trauma resources, up to -$20,000 for critical illness, and ongoing health and wellness education.

All active Minnesota firefighters – volunteer, paid on call, part-time and full-time – can access the MnFIRE Assistance Program, are automatically enrolled in the critical illness insurance policy, and can receive training – the all at no cost to them.

Minnesota firefighters can get crisis help, get more information, or file a claim by calling 888-784-6634 or visiting

MnFIRE Support Program (MAP)

Confidential help is available by phone or online, anytime for any firefighter and/or their family. The MnFIRE Assistance Program (MAP) targets firefighter-specific emotional health and stress through two evidence-based tactics: mental health care connection and peer support. The phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provide confidential support, advice and mental health resources. Any member of a firefighter’s household, including children living away from home, can access the interactive website or contact a trained specialist. Each firefighter and/or family members may receive up to five counseling visits per year, per issue (with additional support provided as needed).

Firefighters are also paired with a member of MnFIRE’s trained peer helper team who knows firsthand the challenges firefighters face and is well equipped to accompany a firefighter in need as they manage their situation.

“Coming into the fire department, every candidate expects to be fighting fires, but the fact is that we are 80% medical response and that has a very emotional response. The emotional aspect was heavy for me,” says William Ewald of the Saint-Boniface Fire Department. “I’ve learned how to manage my stress better and help me get over it so it doesn’t impact me or my family as much.”

MnFIRE Critical Illness Program

All Minnesota firefighters receive a statewide critical illness insurance policy that covers diagnoses of cancer, heart disease, or other critical illnesses, and provides a lump sum cash payment up to $20,000 to help with expenses.

“This program has allowed me and my family to focus on my treatment rather than worrying about our finances due to the cancer diagnosis,” says Christian Worby, a Coon Rapids firefighter who is battling the multiple myeloma. “It’s great to have additional financial support. It’s an additional safety net. It’s a costly affair to have a serious illness.

Free MnFIRE training

Annual ongoing MnFIRE awareness training is available to every Minnesota firefighter. Thousands of firefighters have already received this essential training to become “MnFIRE Aware” of their occupational health risks, and the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program enables MnFIRE to provide additional awareness and in-depth training to keep the momentum going. Departments can learn more or register for the free training at


Since its inception in 2016, the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE) has been committed to providing Minnesota firefighters with the tools they need to prioritize and protect their health by focusing on the three most common health issues faced by firefighters. firefighters: cancer, heart and emotional trauma. In addition to spearheading the legislative initiative, MnFIRE is training Minnesota firefighters to become “MnFIRE aware” of their higher risks for cancer, heart problems, and emotional trauma. The organization launched a 24-hour helpline for firefighters struggling with mental health issues in 2018. For more information, visit

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