Hartford, CT (WorkersCompensation.com) – Legislation to provide extended benefits to first responders who develop work-related Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was by passed by a state Senate committee the Connecticut Labor Committee in a bipartisan vote of 12-2. The next hurdle will be the vote in the full Senate. Advocates expect Senate Bill 164 to be passed by the session’s end on June 5th.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Cathy Osten D-Sprague, initiated the measure shortly after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newton which killed 20 children ages 7 and under, and six staff members. Senator Osten is a former prison guard.
Currently, the only time psychological trauma is covered under workers’ compensation in Connecticut is when they are sustained at the same time as a physical injury. Under the new bill, one year of workers’ compensation benefit coverage would be given to police and firefighters who suffer from PTSD without the physical injury. The six qualifying events include:
Witnessing an event that causes loss of limb, loss of function, or that causes permanent disfigurement
- Carrying an injured person that dies shortly after
- Treating an injured person that dies shortly after
- Witnessing an injury that causes a death
- Witnessing a death
- Viewing a deceased minor
Benefits are extended not only to full time police officers and firefighters, but also to volunteers, and parole officers.
The bill has been a long time in the making, taking on arguments for over six years as health care professionals stated that PTSD can develop anywhere from days to even years after an event occurs. Osten credits improved research on PTSD.
Data from the Ruderman Foundation shows first responders have a 20-percent higher suicide rate than the general public. Additionally, the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance estimates that there were 257 suicides in 2017 which is twice the number of firefighters injured on the job.