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State Senator

Julie Kushner

Representing Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman

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Labor Committee Chair and Vice-Chair Sens. Kushner & Osten Vow 2020 Action on PTSI Coverage for EMS, Dispatchers, Corrections Officers

HARTFORD – Following an emotional and informative four-hour public hearing today on the need to extend Post Traumatic Stress Injury benefits to EMS workers, emergency dispatchers and corrections officers, Democratic State Senators Julie Kusher (D-Danbury) and Cathy Osten (D-Sprague), who are the Senate chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, said they will help introduce such legislation in the 2020 session that begins in February, and that they expect the measure to pass with bipartisan support.

Today’s hearing began with a panel discussion, followed by input from more than a dozen legislators, state agency heads, municipal officials, and members of the public – including several EMS workers and corrections officers.

“It was great to see so much agreement in the room today, and I believe we’ll get something passed next session. Clearly there is a need to extend PTSI benefits to a wider range of first responders than the police officers and firefighters who we covered earlier this year,” said Sen. Kushner, referring to Public Act 19-17, which requires towns to provide workers’ compensation coverage for police officers and firefighters who suffer mental or emotional impairment as a result of their official duties. “The message that came through loud and clear today is that EMS workers and dispatchers are also on the front lines of public safety, as are our correctional officers. Their stories were just as horrific and moving as the ones we have heard from police officers and firefighters. Clearly, the personal impact of a tragic event does not discriminate based on a person’s job title. We owe it to these people to help them remain whole and healthy, and we all benefit when first responders can get better and get back to work. That’s the goal here.”

“I think it was always just a matter of time until we added EMS workers, dispatchers and prison guards to the list of people who need and deserve workers’ comp coverage for post-traumatic stress events. The old arguments from some town officials and fiscally conservative Republicans that we just can’t do this because it’s too expensive – those arguments don’t hold water anymore, especially the way workers’ comp costs have dropped so dramatically in Connecticut over the past several years” Sen. Osten said. “I look forward to working on a Labor Committee bill next session that will do the right thing for these people who willingly put themselves on the front lines for our public safety every day, and I look forward to this bill passing with bipartisan support.” Last May, after six years of effort, the state legislature finally took the first step toward providing Connecticut’s police officers and firefighters with workers’ compensation coverage for the emotional and mental injuries they suffer on the job after witnessing some particularly horrible trauma.

Senate Bill 164, “An Act Including Certain Mental or Emotional Impairments Within the Definition of Personal Injury Under the Workers’ Compensation Statutes,” passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Lamont on June 18.

The law expands the definition of ‘personal injury’ in state workers’ compensation laws to include so-called “mental-mental” injuries (a mental injury without an accompanying physical injury), as of July 1, 2019. The new law covers 36,000 state and local employees, including 26,800 firefighters, 8,180 police officers, 958 state police officers and 140 parole officers.

A last-minute amendment to the bill required the Labor and Public Employees Committee to study the cost and impact of adding emergency medical services personnel and certain Department of Correction Employees to the list of covered employees.

Workers’ compensation laws typically cover medical expenses and allow an employee to collect a portion of their paycheck for a certain time period if they suffer a physical injury on the job – say, a gunshot, a burn, or a broken leg.

But worker’s compensation laws rarely provide coverage for the emotional or mental injuries a police officer or firefighter may suffer after experiencing a particularly harrowing scene, such as a mass shooting or a car accident.

Connecticut’s new state law allows workers’ compensation benefits to be paid to police, volunteer or full-time firefighters, and parole officers diagnosed with PTS and who experienced one of the six following events:

  • Witnessing the death of a person.
  • Witnessing an injury that causes the death of a person shortly thereafter.
  • Treating an injured person who dies shortly thereafter.
  • Carrying an injured person who dies shortly thereafter.
  • Viewing a deceased minor.
  • Witnessing an incident that causes a person to lose a body part, to suffer a loss of body function, or that results in permanent disfigurement.

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