First responders have some of the hardest jobs there are. Police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel all see things on a daily basis that most of us never see in our lifetimes. First responders have higher rates of mental health illnesses and injuries caused by the work environment, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, many of those suffering have not been able to get workers’ compensation coverage for these injuries.
A new bill may change access to coverage
The SC Legislature is back in session and legislation was pre-filed by several lawmakers who worked as first responders. Representative Chris Wooten of Lexington said, “You are a tough guy. You can handle things. You’re a man’s man.’ And then you realize that you can’t handle this stuff by yourself. There are some trauma and things that go in your head that you just can’t get rid of and internalize those.”
Wooten is part of an eight-member caucus made up of lawmakers in SC who were all first responders. They understand that mental injuries and stress caused by the job if left untreated can lead to PTSD, substance abuse, depression, and high rates of suicide.
The new legislation, if passed as written, would add more coverage through the state’s workers’ compensation system for mental injury caused by significant traumatic experiences. Under the proposed legislation, the first responders who need mental health treatment will be able to receive $15,000 per person.
Right now, Gov. McMaster has set aside $500,000 to help first responders suffering from PTSD. However, Tri-Count Fraternal Order of Police President John Blackmon says that is not enough.
Not all work injuries look the same
Most people think of work injuries as only visible traumatic injuries. However, as Rep. Wooten and others point out, many work injuries are mental injuries that are not immediately visible. That does not make them less severe or debilitating. At the Dan Pruitt Law Firm, you can contact our Greenville workers’ compensation attorneys for a free consultation today to find out what your next steps should be. The Dan Pruitt Law Firm is ready to help.