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Arizona bill helps first responders get compensation, therapy for PTSD

(Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

PHOENIX — A bill in the state Senate would allow first responders to get some compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

HB 2501 requires employers to pay proven claims of PTSD (or, as the bill calls it, post-traumatic stress injury, PTSI), under workman’s compensation laws and regulations.

Mesa Fire Captain Bryan Jeffries, president of the Professional Firefighters of Arizona, has been a firefighter and paramedic for almost 25 years. He said PTSD has been ignored or pushed aside for too long – even in his own profession.

“Sometimes, as responders, we’re our own worst enemies,” he said. “We have this macho profession and this macho culture. Historically, we’ve had a viewpoint: ‘Suck it up, buttercup.’ The reality is, these are serious issues. If left unchecked and left untreated, they could lead to much more serious issues.

“I’ve seen (PTSD) many times over. I’ve seen it affect people, I’ve seen it affect their families. I’ve seen people have to leave the job … because of these severe traumatic issues that they’ve experienced.”

The law also allows first responders to get specialized therapy (for example, trauma counselors that work with military veterans). Jeffries said employee-assistance programs at many fire districts are not enough for those suffering from PTSD.

“By the time they’re done telling the counselors their stories, the counselors are crying,” he said. “They need trauma counselors that have experience with military and first responders.”

The bill covers police officers and firefighters; it does not allow employers to require an independent medical exam for a PTSD workmans compensation claim.

The legislation passed the state House Wednesday.

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