Two bills have been introduced in the 2019-2020 session in an effort to provide assistance to first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress injury or PTSI. The League believes post-traumatic stress injury is a serious illness that should be addressed from a prevention perspective first and foremost.
House Bill 1459 passed the House unanimously in October and was supported by the League. It establishes a mental wellness and stress management protocol for first responders within the PA Department of Health. The bill puts in place a number of tools for first responders to use when dealing with post-traumatic stress including peer to peer support, a toll-free helpline, Critical Incident Stress Management, and trauma awareness training. Fines money from traffic violations are increased to pay for these prevention and management programs.
House Bill 432 has been reported out of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Management Committee, but has not yet been taken up by the full House. The League does not support the current version of this bill which amends the PA Workers’ Compensation Act. The intent of the bill is to make it easier for first responders to receive workers’ compensation benefits for PTSI. The current language is broad however; and, in our estimation, will create an uninsurable benefit. If enacted, workers’ compensation insurance premiums will skyrocket and local tax dollars will be diverted away from support programs for first responders to pay premiums and defend claims.