Save Lives, Ensure Coverage for First Responders

First responders are more likely than the general population to experience mental health injuries and attempt and die by suicide, impacting them, their families, and their work. Despite this, the mental injuries experienced by first responders are too often not covered by the insurance programs that should be designed to provide them the help and resources they need. This policy saves lives by ensuring that mental injuries including PTSD are covered by workers’ compensation.

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Frequently Asked Questions
Who does this policy help?
This bill helps first responders, including firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, and other similar personnel, who report higher rates of suicide, depression, and substance abuse, get the resources and support they need when faced with PTSD, depression, and other mental health conditions directly caused by the trauma and stress of their work.
Why do Americans need this policy?
As many as 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions, including depression and PTSD, causing them to be 10 times more likely to attempt suicide on average than another person. In fact, studies show that police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. In 2017, at least 103 firefighters and 140 police officers died from suicide, while 93 firefighters and 129 police officers died in the line of duty.
Is this high cost for the state?
No. Ensuring that first responders have the mental health support and care they need can reduce costs to states overall by ensuring faster returns to work; increasing productivity; reducing risk of addiction and substance abuse; and reducing incidents of excessive force among law enforcement officers.
  • First responders and their unions
  • Mental health advocates
  • Public health advocates
  • None noted
Model Policy
This act shall be known as the First Responders Mental Injury Protection Act
This act ensures that mental health injuries sustained during the course of first responders’ duties are covered under existing and future workers’ compensation benefits.

1. Workers Compensation

a. From January 1 following the passage of this legislation, mental health injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental impairment, experienced by first responders during the course of their duties shall be compensable under all existing and future STATE workers’ compensation programs.

b. The mental health injury, including PTSD or other mental impairment, shall be presumed to be an occupational disease or injury, suffered in the course of employment, that is covered by this section if the first responder or similarly situated employee:

i. Receives a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental impairment from a qualified healthcare provider, and

ii. Receives a statement from a qualified healthcare provider that the PTSD or other mental impairment was caused by a critical event or multiple exposures to critical events that occurred in the course of the employment.

c. The mental health injury, including PTSD or other mental impairment, shall be presumed to be an occupational disease or injury, suffered in the line of duty, that is covered by this section.

d. Factual findings that the critical event or events in question were expected as part of the claimant’s job duties or that training had been provided to the claimant related to the type of critical event shall not prevent the presumption contained in this section from being applied.

e. A mental health injury, including PTSD or other mental impairment, that is solely attributed to disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination, or similar action taken in good faith by an employer shall not be covered by the presumption contained in this section.

2. Definitions:

a. “First responder” includes:

i. Salaried or volunteer firefighter,

ii. Law enforcement officers,

iii. Emergency medical technicians,

iv. Paramedics,

v. Emergency call taker or dispatcher, or

vi. Similar personnel

b. “Mental impairment” means a recognized disability arising from an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment when the accidental injury involves no physical injury and consists of a psychologically traumatic event. “Mental impairment” also includes a disability arising from an accidental physical injury that leads to a recognized permanent psychological disability.

c. “Qualified healthcare provider” means a licensed physician, licensed clinical psychologist, licensed professional counselor, or licensed clinical social worker.