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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become a major topic of conversation for veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the main focus has been on veterans, there is also increasing interest in the effects of PTSD on the first responder community – fire, law enforcement and emergency medical services.
Recently, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed into law the first responders’ workers compensation law (Senate Bill 1028). While this law will have an enormously positive effect on the EMS community in Idaho, it's also creating awareness that first responders too need better access to mental health services.
“The bill that zoomed through both the House and Senate with bi-partisan support states the first responder must have ‘clear and convincing’ evidence of physiological injury and that the treatment would be handled through worker's compensation,” KHQ Channel 6 in Spokane, Washington, reported. “The old law said first responders could only claim PTSD if there was a physical injury associated [with it] to get worker’s comp.”
First Responders Witness Many Traumatic Events
First responders witness an enormous number of 911 calls related to traumatic circumstances that make a lasting impression on them. For instance, they may deal with people who have been shot, stabbed or badly injured during vehicle accidents.
For major events such as a terrorist bombing or a mass shooting, the sights and sounds of such events result in even more trauma. It is difficult to witness some of these events without being profoundly affected.
Idaho’s PTSD Law Could Create Similar Legislation Nationwide
Hopefully, Idaho’s new first responder PTSD law will have a ripple effect on legislation throughout the country and create improved support for first responders. At the very least, the new bill will create more discussion about the important need for broader mental healthcare for first responders.