Firefighters testify in support of Neb. PTSD bill
The bill would provide preventative training and improve access to workers’ compensation for PTSD and other mental health conditions
By Laura French
LINCOLN, Neb. — A group of Nebraska firefighters told state legislators their personal stories of trauma in order to drive support for a proposed mental health bill.
The bill would improve access to workers’ compensation for firefighters and police officers with PTSD and other mental health conditions by allowing them to make their case through testimony from a mental health professional. It also reduces a claimant’s burden of proving that their mental injury was sustained on the job.
Omaha Firefighter Tyler Fausset told senators of a 2015 call he says changed his life for the worse, according to KETV.
“This call was the worst of society, where a young mother lost her life. In the time following, I began to see my life around me fall apart,” Fausset testified.
Omaha Firefighter Donald Dodge, who comes from a family with three generations of firefighters, said he suffered trauma from a call in 2008 that has followed him for years.
“Over the next decade, my personality changed radically. Memory loss, quick temper, responding aggressively to being surprised,” Dodge said.
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer, would also provide funding for preventative annual resilience training for firefighters and police.
Opponents of the bill who testified said the costs associated would burden small towns, and some also objected to the inclusion of some clergy under the bill’s definition of “mental health professional.”
Mental health experts also testified, some pointing out that presumptive PTSD compensation laws have already been passed in 14 other U.S. states.
“First responders face unique and uniquely dangerous risks in their sworn mission to keep the public safe,” Brewer said. “It is imperative for society to recognize occupational injuries related to post-traumatic stress.”