May 26, 2021

Senator Haskell Joins Senate Vote to Expand Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Health Care Providers, Including EMS Personnel, Department of Corrections Employees, Emergency Dispatchers and Health Care Providers Related to COVID-19

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) joined the Senate in its approval of a bill that would expand eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress injuries to include emergency medical services personnel, Department of Correction employees, telecommunicators such as 911 emergency dispatchers and, under certain COVID-19-related circumstances, health care providers.

“Two years ago, the Senate expanded post-traumatic stress coverage to first responders like police and firefighters,” said Sen. Haskell. “In our debates, we recognized we could and should do more to support the many other local first responders who work to keep us safe. Today, we made good on that. I’d like to thank Senator Julie Kushner, Chair of the Labor Committee, for putting forth this legislation to provide EMS responders, prison guards, emergency dispatchers and certain health care providers increased access to post-traumatic stress services and benefits. Especially in this last year, these individuals have made sacrifices and experienced incredible challenges in service to others. They deserve our full support.”

Senate Bill 660, “An Act Expanding Workers’ Compensation Benefits For Certain Mental Or Emotional Impairments Suffered By Health Care Providers In Connection With COVID-19,” seeks to expand workers’ compensation for post-traumatic stress injuries to cover emergency medical services personnel, all Department of Correction employees, telecommunicators such as 911 emergency dispatchers and health care providers who experienced certain circumstances related to COVID-19. The bill also changes “post-traumatic stress disorder” to “post-traumatic stress injury” in current law.

PTSI events compensable with workers’ compensation benefits for emergency health workers and Department of Corrections employees include incidents where an individual views a deceased minor, witnesses a person’s death or incident causing a person’s death, witnesses injury to someone who dies before or upon admission to a hospital, witnesses a traumatic physical injury leading to permanent disfigurement or amputation, or has physical contact with/treating injured persons who die before or upon admission. Emergency dispatchers can receive aid if they hear such incidents by radio or telephone.

Health care providers who witnessed death due to COVID-19, witnessed injury to someone who died from COVID-19, cared for someone who died of COVID-19 or witnessed traumatic physical injury leading to loss of vital body function due to COVID-19 would be eligible for PTSI workers’ compensation benefits. “Health care provider” specifically refers to people employed at doctor’s offices, hospitals, health care centers, clinics, medical schools, health departments, nursing facilities, retirement facilities, nursing homes, group homes, home health providers, laboratory and medical testing, pharmacies and personal care providers regularly employed for at least 26 hours per week.

Under the bill, PTSI benefits would be capped at 52 weeks; would be prohibited from being awarded beyond four years after a qualifying event, which must happen after July 1, 2019 under current law; and requires employers contest such a claim through a process similar to other workers’ compensation claims.

The Labor and Public Employees Committee unanimously approved the legislation in March. It now proceeds to the House for further debate and potential approval.