Mat Erpelding House PTSD bill 2-28-19

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, standing argues in favor of SB 1028, the first responders PTSD bill, in the Idaho House on Feb. 28. The bill passed and now heads to Gov. Brad Little.

A bill to give first responders workers' compensation coverage for job-related psychological injuries is now law.

Gov. Brad Little signed it Tuesday. It passed both the House and Senate with little opposition.

“We depend on our police, fire, dispatchers and emergency workers every day," said bill sponsor House Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise. "This is going to improve their health and everyone’s safety. This legislation is long overdue. I am grateful for the part my colleagues on both sides of aisle played in getting this bill passed. As elected leaders, we can never forget how vital Idaho’s first responders are to our well-being.”

Police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders were previously only eligible for workers’ compensation for psychological treatment if the injury is accompanied by a physical injury. As a result, those who need counseling for post-traumatic stress sometimes need to use their time off and pay for their therapy themselves.

“Every night when I get home, I listen to what my husband deals with day-in and day-out,” Rep. Brooke Greene, D-Boise, whose husband is an Ada County Sheriff’s deputy, said in a statement. “As a first responder's spouse we are the first line of defense and see the toll this job can take on our loved one. One of the main reasons I ran for office was to do something about this problem and to be a voice for our law enforcement families. On a personal level, voting for the first responders' bill was one of the most important things I’ve done since joining the House.”

“The public’s understanding of what police, fire and EMTs go through each day is generally limited to what they see in the news," said Rep. Jake Ellis, D-Boise, a retired firefighter. "That doesn’t begin to capture the psychological trauma my fellow first responders deal with. I am proud of this legislation not just because of the difference it will make in the lives of the people who keep us safe, but because we helped bring awareness to a crippling problem that affects first responders all over the country.”

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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