Bill passes to allow first responders access to compensable mental health services

Wildfires have burned more than 221,000 acres throughout California. Almost 8,000 firefighters are trying to contain the blazes, officials said Thursday, October 12, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah House passed a bill Tueaday that will allow compensated access to mental health services by first responders across the state.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee voted nine to one to pass HB 209, “Mental Health Protections for First Responders.” The bill was crafted because first responders are at higher risk for mental stress such as PTSD, and may have a higher need for access to certain services.

“So many of our policemen, firefighters, and EMTs will experience anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder from the things they see and experience on the job,” said Rep. Karen Kwan (D-Murray). “This bill addresses barriers to mental health treatment for First Responders who currently need to prove that a mental health diagnosis is caused by their job.”

The bill defines first responders as firefighters, law enforcement, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, 911 dispatchers and correctional officers.

The bill allows for amendments to be made to workers’ compensation claims when a first responder files for due to mental stress.

“Physical, mental, or emotional injuries related to mental stress arising out of and in the course of employment shall be compensable under this chapter only when there is a sufficient legal and medical causal connection between the employee’s injury and employment,” the bill stated.

First responders would be obligated to provide proof that the stress they experienced as a result of their job was significant enough to be compensated. This proof would be based off of a national standard of contemporary employment and non-employment life.

“The passage of this bill puts us one step closer to ensuring that we will value and protect the mental and psychological health of our First Responders as well as their physical health,” Rep. Kwan said.