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Proposed bill would protect first responders suffering from PTSD

Friday, March 22, 2019  
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WHP CBS 21 News

by Joe Ducey

Proposed bill would protect first responders suffering from PTSD

First responders say a new bill will be a game changer for members suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

If passed supporters say the measure would save hundreds of lives in PA.

Last year in Pennsylvania 114 first responders took their own lives, that's more suicides than in the line of duty deaths.

Now lawmakers are trying to amend the states Workers Compensation Act to make resources more available to first responders suffering from mental health related illness.

"He wrote, 'PTSD for firefighters is real. If your loved one is experiencing signs, get them help quick. 27 years of death and baby dying in your hands is a memory that you will never get rid of. It's haunted me daily until now. My love to my crews. Be safe, take care. I love you all.' After he wrote that on Facebook he committed suicide." Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline recalled.

Chief Enterline, says that was the message a battalion Cheif in Florida posted on social media before taking his own life. It's a scenario that hits close to home for first responders and lawmakers in the commonwealth

Representative Barrar sponsored house bill 432. If signed into law it would help recognize post traumatic stress as an occupational injury and establish statewide peer mentoring protocol to help treat first responders dealing with post traumatic stress.

"In my legislation we changed the terminology to PTSI; which then would designate post traumatic stress as an injury; not a disorder." Said Representative Steven Barrar. "What my bill would do is inspire first responders to seek treatment they need, knowing that they're not going lose their job. That they're not going to lose compensation”

Representative Barrar say he thinks there will be a lot of opposition to bill - especially from the insurance industry; but, he says he hopes its something lawmakers can work together on and overcome.

"It appears the most deadly time to be a firefighter, police officer, or EMS person is when we're off duty. More are dying by their own hand through suicide then they are fighting a fire or in an armed standoff is a hostage situation." Chief Enterline explained.

Representative Barrar says he plans on moving the bill to a vote on the house floor in about a month. He says if it passes the house he expects will will pass he senate unanimously.


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