Georgia first responders who suffer physical injuries while doing their jobs can file workers’ compensation claims. However, workers’ compensation does not cover psychological injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
One Georgia lawmaker wants to change this.
House Bill 855
House Bill 855 would allow first responders to file workers’ compensation claims for psychological injuries resulting from their work whether they have a corresponding physical injury or not. The lawmaker explains that Georgia trails the nation in access to mental health resources and that first responders have been asking for legislative change.
PTSD in first responders
Over 80% of first responders experience traumatic events while doing their jobs. This puts first responders at elevated risk of developing PTSD because of their work. About one-third of all first responders develop PTSD, compared to one-fifth of the general population.
About 37% of EMS personnel and firefighters report suicidal thoughts at some point in their lifetime. PTSD symptoms can make it difficult for emergency workers to perform their jobs. These symptoms may also cause depression and anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse and suicidal ideations. Many first responders are unable to receive the care they need because of the cost of treatment, the difficulty in getting time off work and the fear of job repercussions.
The link between the work that first responders do and mental health conditions, such as PTSD seems clear. Legislation that makes first responders eligible for workers’ compensation for PTSD and other psychological injuries could improve the health of first responders and public safety.