EMS Workers Criticize PTSD Bill, Say They Also Need Help

A long-awaited compromise bill involving PTSD coverage for first responders does not include ambulance workers

High praise earlier for an agreement to help first responders cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, has been dampened by criticism in a few short days.

Ambulance workers say they don’t understand why a new bill includes police and firefighters, but not them.

NBC Connecticut Investigates has reported extensively on this issue the past two years, previously addressing on 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.

90% of officers surveyed said they believe there is a stigma in law enforcement about seeking help for mental illness

A similar survey addressed the issue among firefighters.

The bill aimed at providing PTSD coverage came through nine months of negotiation and compromise.

Yet ambulance workers wonder why, during all that time, they weren’t also considered.

The smiles when the Connecticut Conference Of Municipalities, unions, and legislators announced agreement on a PTSD bill have been followed up with frowns in ambulance bays across the state.

EMTs like Tara Norman can’t believe the bill includes police and firefighters, but not her.

“We go to the same calls that the police department goes to that the fire department goes to and we also go to calls by ourselves, which do have some atrocious conditions that we are exposed to,” Norman said.

Norman says thousands of ambulance workers have signed an online petition asking to be added to the bill, because of the toll PTSD takes on first responders.

“I know people who tried to kill themselves, people who did kill themselves, it’s horrible,” Norman added.

In a statement, the Connecticut Conference Of Municipalities said in part, “We remain open to how the benefits may need to be improved over time.”

The Association Of Connecticut Ambulance Providers, which had opposed similar bills in the past, says it is now willing to consider including them in the new proposed legislation.

It’s all part of the process, says state Sen. Cathy Osten.

Osten led unsuccessful attempts to pass PTSD legislation in the past, and explains she took a back seat this time around.

“It all doesn’t get solved in one legislative session. It took us six years to get to this point where people would agree to bring something forward, and so we know that we’re gonna move this forward over the next couple of years and this is where we are today,” Osten said.

Osten says for example, she would like to include ambulance workers, correction employees, and many others in the PTSD bill.

Full statement released by Association of Connecticut Ambulance Providers:

The members of the Association of Connecticut Ambulance Providers (ACAP) understand the importance of providing support to our EMT’s and Paramedics who experience mental or emotional impairments. We offer our employees’ Health benefits, immediate access to Employee Assistance Programs, Critical Incident Stress Management and short term-disability to help them through difficult situations. The support we provide to our employees is not limited to mental injuries, but rather encompasses a wide range of services.

Regarding the issue of legislation including PTSD as a compensable claim under Connecticut Worker’s Compensation: Previous years’ proposed legislation lacked sufficient details, definitions, determination and application of coverage we believed were essential and therefore we took an opposition approach based on the manner in which the bills were drafted and not because employee wellness is unimportant. In fact, each year we also offered suggestions on revisions that would address the concerns raised by ACAP and Municipalities. Each year the proposed legislation failed to pass for all emergency responder groups because of the lack of such details, and because of the concerns over the fiscal impact to the state and municipalities.

This year’s proposal (Senate Bill No. 164) was created by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities without our participation and specifically limited the application to state and municipal police officers, parole officers, and firefighters. The current proposal needs additional changes but provides a number of important coverage details previously absent.

Although the current version does not include emergency medical technicians and paramedics, we believe there are now sufficient details that warrant consideration and we, the member companies of ACAP, are open to such discussions and consideration.

We continue to support all levels of first responders and certainly understand the difficult situations they encounter each day. ACAP will continue to work with our employees to ensure that they receive the support they need in addition to continuing to work with the legislature on this very important manner.

Full statement from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

The proposal represents the consensus from a year-long effort by a group of municipal leaders and police and fire leaders to provide PTSD benefits for the first time in a responsible way, through the workers compensation system, and in a manner that is cost sustainable.

The legislation, if enacted, will address a most pressing public health need and give us a benchmark to see how it may need to be improved over time.

The working group focused on seeking the best possible way to Initially provide cost-sustainable benefits and focused on two primary public safety groups — police and fire. We remain open to how the benefits may need to be improved over time.

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