First Responders and PTSD -What States are Doing, if Anything
There is a stigma among first responders, as in the US Military, that if you are experiencing emotional issues over what you see (PTSD), suck it up and pretend it will go away. It usually doesn’t. With the suicide rate for LEOs and other first responders at an appalling level, not just for the military, at least a few states are moving to do something about it by easing access to help. Idaho is one of those with SB 1028.
First responders see trauma on a regular basis. From car wrecks involving someone they know who has been crushed, or disaster victims, or having to shoot a perpetrator who has just murdered someone – maybe a fellow law enforcement officer, or a fire that has killed an entire family, their exposure to the “things they can’t unsee” is real.
“Our officers deal with trauma on a pretty regular basis, and some of the more provocative ones are reported upon. But a lot of the other ones the officers deal with and at the end of the day they are expected to go home and put on a smiley face and come home and do it again the next day, but over time those things can really weigh on an individual…
It was chin-up, macho, come back to work, don’t talk about these sorts of things. We’re doing a much better job in 2019 than when we were in say 2006 or beyond in identifying PTSD issues or other stress-related injuries that an officer or firefighter may experience.” 26 year police veteran, Marine Veteran Chief of Police Lee White, Coeur d’Alene, to KHQ news.
SB 1028 sits on Idaho Governor Brad Little’s desk, ready for his expected signature on March 12. The bipartisan bill that reportedly sailed through both houses, changed the criteria for PTSD with Workman’s Comp benefits – now it will include mental issues from the job rather than only physical ones. Chief White hopes it will give his officers and Fire employees the help they need before it’s too late.
Sadly, not all states have recognized the need for this kind of help. In 2017, only 4 out of 8 states passed legislation to ease first responders’ access to help.
Example: Orlando Officer Gerry Realin spent four hours removing dead bodies from the Pulse Nightclub. As of June 2017, he could not return to work. The sight of a white sheet or a black marker triggered flashbacks. In the year he was absent, he received no compensation because he had no physical injury along with the PTSD. If he had, lost wages would have been compensated, and mental help would have been available.
He worked hard to get Florida senators to pass SB 1088, which would have changed the criteria, but in the end it did not pass. (Reported by Work Comp Central 2017)
Many other state legislators decided not to pass a bill to change Workman’s Comp laws because it would “cost too much money.”
As with the military, PTSD is not a death sentence. It’s a physiological response to trauma. It can be overcome with assistance. Those who suffer from it are not necessarily doomed to stay away from a given career. Although liberals love to paint all veterans, and police officers as monsters, they are wrong. Whether the war is in a foreign country or on the streets of America, help must be available to all who fight it.