AP NEWS

Idaho house OKs bill to help emergency responders with PTSD

February 28, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation identifying post-traumatic stress disorder as an occupational injury sustained by Idaho’s emergency responders passed the House on Thursday and is heading to Gov. Brad Little.

The House voted 59-10 to approve the legislation that will allow such injuries to be handled through worker’s compensation. The Senate passed the bill earlier. Little, a Republican, has not said whether he will sign the bill to make it law.

The legislation is different from current law that only allows post-traumatic stress disorder to be treated through worker’s compensation if a physical injury has also occurred.

“The legislature took a big step in helping Idaho’s first responders today,” Democratic House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding after the vote. “Our first responders put their lives on the line every day to help us in our most desperate hours. It’s about time that we took the necessary steps to protect the people who do us such an amazing service.”

Dispatchers, firefighters, peace officers and other emergency responders would be covered under the law.

Supporters during the debate on the House floor said the legislation will help emergency responders stay on the job or return to work. They also said it could prevent some emergency responders from committing suicide. Arguments against the legislation included financial concerns to entities paying for coverage of such claims.

Republican Rep. Thyra Stevenson said she could not support the bill because of the potential cost.

“When I was in the city council, we often had issues come up to us that were passed down from the Legislature, and they were unfunded mandates that we had to accomplish something in the city without the funds to do that,” she said.

Republican Rep. James Holtzclaw argued in favor of the legislation.

“The mayors that I spoke with, they appreciate this bill because they see it as an investment,” he said. “They see it as the workers getting the help they need where they can get back on the job.”

Some lawmakers supporting the legislation spoke about the trauma experienced by relatives in law enforcement, their own experiences as emergency responders, or times they witnessed trauma and emergency responders helped them.

The legislation is scheduled to end in four years, giving lawmakers a chance to see how much the cost is before deciding whether to continue with the law.