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Bill on PTSD Coverage for Police, Firefighters Tabled

The bill would allow police officers, parole officers and firefighters diagnosed with PTSD workers' compensation coverage

The state Senate discussed a bill for hours that would give police officers and firefighters diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, workers' compensation coverage but the bill was tabled on Wednesday night.

The Senate discussed the bill for several hours Wednesday, with Republicans and Democrats showing support.

“There's not enough awareness out there. We need some changes to help our first responders who give so much each and every day,” said Trish Buchanan.

For Buchanan, bringing attention to PTSD is personal. Her late husband Paul was an East Hartford police officer for nearly 24 years. She said he struggled with PTSD, depression and anxiety, and in 2013 he died by suicide.

“Paul, in one of his final notes, wrote 'make my death an issue, and help others that are like me,’” Buchanan explained.

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

Working in her husband’s memory, she pushed for a bill that would give workers’ compensation coverage to police officers, firefighters and parole officers diagnosed with PTSD. It would provide compensation for up to a year and is expected to cover around 36,000 state and local employees.

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.

A similar survey addressed the issue among firefighters.

“I think we should recognize that post-traumatic stress is an actual condition that can be treated and if treated can return someone to work, and that's what ultimately workers comp is all about,” said Sen. Catherine Osten (D-19th District).

Osten worked for the Department of Correction for more than two decades, and said this bill is personal for her too.

“I've had some 20 of my colleagues, almost two dozen of my colleagues commit suicide as a result of the trauma of the job,” she said.

Osten said she’d eventually like to see all workers covered, with supporters hoping it’ll save lives.

The bill has been criticized for not including EMS workers. An amendment was presented wanting to see EMS covered as well. They were not included in the bill because lawmakers said that involving private entities, not just public, so the bill was tabled Wednesday night.

It’s unknown if they’ll pick it back up.

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