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First responders may soon get workers comp for PTSD

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(The Center Square) – First responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder may soon qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania.

The state House of Representatives approved a proposal on Wednesday to expand the program to cover those living with the condition. Twenty-five other states have already done so, according to prime sponsor Rep. Jenn O’Mara, D-Springfield.

O’Mara said her father, a Philadelphia firefighter whom she called her hero, died by suicide in 2003.

“First responders are heroes, but they’re not superheroes,” she said. “We need to make mental health care more accessible to prevent tragedies like the one my family went through.”

House Bill 1632 also clarifies the injury doesn’t have to result from “abnormal working conditions.” State police officers, firefighters, paramedics and officers of the peace may qualify if diagnosed within three years of an initial claim. Roughly 100,000 first responders live in Pennsylvania.

Analysis from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published in 2018 estimated that 30% of first responders develop mental health conditions, as compared to 20% among the general population.

Further research from the National Institutes of Health released in 2022 estimates up to 10% of emergency workers develop PTSD, specifically.

Pennsylvania’s emergency response network faces an unprecedented staffing crisis as workers sacrifice mental and physical health to serve others – particularly in the state’s rural communities.