Idaho Enacts Expanded PTSD Law for First Responders
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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on EDM Digest.
By Allison G. S. Knox, faculty member at American Military University
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.
[Free Magazine: Understanding and Coping with Responder Stress]
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, the new first responder PTSD law in Idaho 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.
About the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is a faculty member at American Military University, teaching courses in Emergency and Disaster Management. Her research interests are comprised of emergency management and emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master of Arts degrees in emergency management, international relations, national security studies and history. She is a certified lifeguard, EMT and is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Allison currently serves as Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for NAEMT, Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and Faculty Advisor for the Political Science Scholars. She is also on the Board of Trustees and serves as Chancellor of the Southeast Region for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in the Social Sciences. She can be reached at IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.