Bill Would Expand PTSD Coverage for First Responders & Frontline Workers

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A broader group of first responders and frontline workers may soon be able to get workers' compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

NBC Connecticut Investigates reported stories of police and firefighters dealing with work-related PTSD just before a law passed getting them workers' comp coverage two years ago.

That’s when former police officer Justin Lord told NBC Connecticut Investigates there’s no replacement for the treatment he received for work-related PTSD.

"The resources that were directed my way really saved my life," Lord said.

Two years ago, a bill became law granting Connecticut police and firefighters workers comp coverage for PTSD claims.

Towns and cities were initially hesitant because of costs and other factors, and in the end, ambulance personnel and others were left out, prompting paramedics like Douglas Dole to form the Connecticut Association of Paramedics and EMTs to make their case.

“It was very frustrating that we saw EMS not included when that bill was really all about EMS," Dole explained.

Fast forward to 2021, and Sen. Julie Kushner, who helped get the original bill passed, spearheaded a new bill expanding workers comp coverage for PTSD to a number of new groups, including but not limited to EMS personnel, dispatchers, and correction officers.

She believes the pandemic made the difficult situations they face clearer.

“I just think the time was right, who's going to come out and argue that there hasn't been post-traumatic stress injuries this year when we faced some of the most horrific circumstances of death?” Kushner said.

The bill, sponsored by the Labor and Public Employees committee Kushner co-chairs, received unanimous Senate approval this week. 

She said she is 100% confident it will get through the House and get signed by Gov. Ned Lamont a relief to people like Dole.

“We hope nobody has to be covered by this.  But we know sadly that there are people who will suffer PTSD and we're happy they'll get the coverage now,” Dole said.

In testimony opposing the PTSD expansion earlier this year, an organization representing towns and cities said costs will vary depending upon the number of claims and their severities.

It did cite one report that said a single mental stress event claim could range in cost from $10,000, to as much as $1 million through the duration of the claim.

NBC Connecticut Investigates has reported extensively on the issue of first responder PTSD over the past few years, previously with a survey of almost 8,000 officers on PTSD by the Fraternal Order of Police and NBC owned stations, which took a deeper look at the issues officers reported experiencing after stressful calls.

A similar survey addressed the issue among firefighters.

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