Gov. Little signs first responders' PTSD bill to expand worker's comp to cover mental health
Every year, many first responders take their own lives due in part to post-traumatic stress. On Tuesday, the Gov. Brad Little signed a piece of Idaho legislation, giving help to emergency workers after they are called to scenes that are sometimes unimaginable.
The legislation was sponsored by House Democratic Leader Mat Erpelding who has been working to make this day happen for almost a year.
First responders packed the governor's office Tuesday morning, one of them, Rock Creek Firefighter Tim Daniels.
"This is pretty big," he told KMVT.
The legislation will now let worker's compensation cover time off for those who need to get psychological help because of their career.
"This opens the door to the larger conversation of, 'what do we want for mental health in our communities,'" Erpelding said.
This will especially help those emergency workers who could see traumatic situations on a day-to-day basis.
"There is a lot of things that we're exposed to that most people don't see on a regular basis and over time, continual exposure to that may build up," Daniels said. "It may not be that particular call where we're having a hard time with, but it may be that next call or being at home with our families."
For Boise Rep. Brooke Green, this also hits close to home as her husband is a sheriff's deputy.
"This legislation really provides something for our spouses but all their colleagues who, in their time of need, they're now going to be able to have that resource, and be able to access care," Green said.
As a firefighter with Rock Creek for about 10 years, Daniels said the bill passed by the governor is "huge."
"This kind of help takes care of that when we need the time away from here and without having to use our paid time off," he said.
Before this legislation, emergency responders would have to have a concurrent physical injury to get covered.
"Gone are the days of, if you're having a hard time dealing with it, just buck up and move on," Daniels continued. "That we are starting to recognize the things we need to get help and to deal with."
If a first responder does use worker's compensation for mental health issues, he said they have to prove it just like any other injuries, by going to a counselor.
"It needs to be shown that this is something that did happen on the job. We have counselors in place and things like that, so it’s not an abuse on the system," he said.
With this bill, it can help keep their career of service healthy for themselves and their community.
"We're not much good to the people we serve if we're not able to be right physically and emotionally and mentally, so this kind of helps put a light to that," Daniels said.
The legislation will go into effect this July.
Jeremy Gugino contributed to this report.