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Mental trauma considered for workers' compensation

Traumatic workplace injuries can lead to mental problems. This may be especially true for first responders in Connecticut, who can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after their involvement in gruesome events, such as a mass shooting or a fatal accident.

Reacting to fervent advocacy from police and firefighter's unions, the legislature's labor and public employees' committee approved a bill that would grant workers' compensation coverage for PTSD. In 2015, a similar bill was approved by the state Senate, but the legislature adjourned before the House could consider and vote on the proposal.

In addition to firefighters and police, the bill would also provide workers' compensation benefits to state police afflicted with PTSD. A proposal to cover corrections officers was rejected because of anticipated costs. Several other committees have to approve this bill before it can be transmitted to the House and Senate for consideration.

A member of the labor committee cited studies in states that offer similar mental health coverage for first responders, showing that workers' compensation for mental trauma is rare. In those states, less than 0.5 percent of all benefits involved mental health issues and approximately 2 percent of compensation payoffs were for those cases.

Connecticut workers' compensation covered mental trauma until 1993. At that time, the legislature restricted coverage in reaction to complaints that public employees in non-hazardous jobs were making workers' compensation claims for this trauma. A proponent, however, argued that this bill provides narrow coverage.

Various municipal officials in Connecticut are fighting against this proposal because of their concerns over added costs for cities and towns that are in a precarious financial condition. Opponents may also claim the bill's cost may lead to public employee layoffs.

Source: Hartford Courant, "Despite cost warnings, panel passes PTSD coverage for first responders,"George B. Hladky, March 1, 2016

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