– Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) introduced a bill that would entitle first responders to benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law for psychological injuries arising from their job demands, or after four years or more of service, even in cases when physical injuries are absent.
Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics would all qualify for post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) care under+ House Bill 2664
“Currently, the men and women who struggle with PTSI most are denied life-saving care afforded to others through workers’ compensation because experiencing trauma like watching people lose their homes, loved ones and even their lives is considered part of their job. However, an office worker, for example, who witnesses just one of the horrors that first responders see all the time would qualify him or her for care because it would be out of the realm of his or her position,” Barrar explained.
The trauma first responders witness can trigger mental health problems, either by a specific experience or cumulative exposure. Failing to address PTSI results can result in deadly consequences.
At an informational meeting held by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee in March, Retired Battalion Chief and Director of Peer Support for the Philadelphia Firefighter’s Union IAFF Local 22, Mike Yaeger, testified about the rising rate of suicides, “In Philly, since 2011, we had 8 line-of-duty deaths and 14 suicides. Across the country, the numbers seem to be consistent – two suicides for every line-of-duty death.”
“It’s alarming to hear that we’re losing more first responders to suicide than line-of-duty deaths, and demands our attention,” Barrar said.
The bill is currently before the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which is chaired by Barrar.
“Before the bill receives a vote, I plan to explore it from all angles to ensure that it protects our first responders by addressing all of their injuries, even those we cannot see, in the most effective way possible,” Barrar added.
Representative Stephen E. Barrar
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans