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California’s bill to help first responders with PTSD

Paramedics pushing a gurney

There is a new bill in the California State Senate. This bill, called SB-623, aims to help first responders who are going through post-traumatic stress.

This bill is part of a larger effort to address the mental health challenges that these important workers face.

Boosting mental health support

SB-623, which Senator John Laird introduced, focuses on supporting first responders in California. These are the folks who often find themselves dealing with tough situations while they are on duty. This often leads to mental health problems. The primary goal of this bill is to expand the workers’ compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder, making it easier for more first responders to get the mental health care they need.

Expanding the coverage for PTSD

Under current California law, PTSD is an illness related to the job, which means that firefighters, police officers and other first responders can get workers’ compensation for it. SB-623 wants to prolong this coverage by seven years, pushing the expiration date from 2025 to January 1, 2032. The bill also intends to include more types of first responders, like dispatchers, peace officers, investigators and public security officers.

The reason for this bill

The inspiration for this bill comes from a series of reports called “Trial by Fire,” which CalMatters published. These reports showed that PTSD and mental health problems are becoming more common among Cal Fire personnel. In fact, the average firefighter experiences as many as nine potentially traumatic events in their first three years of service. Their job is challenging, especially when dealing with intense wildfires. This kind of work can lead to issues like substance abuse, relationship problems and even thoughts of suicide.

Support from First Responder Unions

First responders have been pushing for better workers’ compensation coverage for a while, making it easier for them to get comprehensive mental health care. SB-623 is a big step in that direction. However, addressing the mental health problems that they face is challenging. It involves encouraging them to report their struggles without fearing that their jobs will be in jeopardy. It also means improving their data collection while ensuring personal medical information stays private.

SB-623 is a significant step in improving mental health support for California’s first responders. If successful, it will ensure they have the resources they need to deal with the challenges they face from the nature of their work.