PTSD COVERAGE FOR FIRST RESPONDERS IN CONNECTICUT
A new law recently went into effect in Connecticut, effective July 1, 2019, which provides workers’ compensation benefits for certain mental or emotional impairments and mental health care for police officers, parole officers, and firefighters. This law stemmed from tragedies such as the unfortunate events that unfolded in Sandy Hook back in 2012, which are becoming increasingly more common in this day and age.
Public Act 19-17 extends coverage for mental health injuries to police officers, parole officers and firefighters in certain circumstances, when previously these injuries were only covered if they were in some way connected with physical injuries. A qualifying event is one occurring in the line of duty on or after July 1, 2019 in which a police officer, parole officer or firefighter:
- Views a deceased minor;
- Witnesses the death of a person or an incident involving the death of a person;
- Witnesses an injury to a person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury and not as a result of any other intervening cause;
- Has physical contact with and treats an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury and not as a result of any other intervening cause;
- Carries an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury and not as a result of any other intervening cause; or
- Witnesses a traumatic physical injury that results in the loss of a vital body part or a vital body function that results in permanent disfigurement of the victim.
Public Act 19-17 provides that such benefits will be afforded for a maximum period of one year from the date of the diagnosis, and shall not be awarded beyond four years from the date of the qualifying event that formed the basis for the personal injury. Additionally, not later than February 1, 2020, the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to labor and public employees shall complete an examination of the feasibility of expanding the availability of benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder to emergency medical services personnel and Department of Correction employees who are not otherwise eligible for these benefits under the Act.
This law is a significant movement toward the treatment of certain mental health injuries suffered by first responders in this state. Time will tell whether this new law will expand in the future to include emergency medical services personnel and Department of Correction employees, who also come across many of these qualifying events during the course of their employment.