First Responders, PTSD & workers’ compensation
Firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers routinely experience some of the most horrific calamities, which unfortunately are inherent to their profession. These events have a dramatic emotional and psychological impact on them, and subsequently, some First Responders suffer from posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). First Responders are particularly vulnerable to mental injuries and the incidence of PTSD is significantly higher for them as compared to the general population. Any worker who witnesses a horrific event on the job may develop PTSD.
Historically, workers’ compensation has provided limited benefits for PTSD, however, recently Florida passed legislation (Florida SB376) that expands workers’ compensation benefits for first responders with a PTSD diagnosis that is due to a qualifying event in the course of their occupational responsibilities. Eligibility for coverage does not require an associated physical injury.
Florida SB376 extends PTSD WC benefits to First Responders
As of October 1, 2018, Florida’s First Responders are eligible to receive full workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD. The March 2018 Florida Senate legislation approval means First Responders may be entitled to lost wages under the Florida workers’ compensation law for PTSD. The law defines PTSD “as an occupational disease compensable under workers’ compensation when suffered because of acting within the course of employment and covers lost wages, medical care and impairment benefits for First Responders with PTSD.” Other U.S. states are considering similar legislation.
New training requirements for employers
Under the new law, Florida agencies and organizations that employ First Responders, including those who are volunteers, are required to provide educational training related to mental health awareness, prevention, mitigation and treatment.
Mental health awareness training & peer support
Meet regulatory requirements by providing education on PTSD to help employees identify signs of PTSD and establish a system to help. Socializing with others who have been through similar traumas has proven to be the most effective way to enhance recovery from PTSD. IMCS provides comprehensive training for formalized peer counseling, one of the primary hallmarks for helping First Responders diagnosed with PTSD. Appropriately structured peer counseling helps by:
- Providing one-on-one support
- Reaching out to colleagues who have recently been exposed to a traumatic event
- Participating in support groups
- Serving as a community resource and professional intervention referral
- Assisting with goal setting
IMCS early intervention
Early intervention after a traumatic event has proven to reduce the incidence of PTSD diagnoses. Our innovative, bio-psychosocial, evidence-based approach has positioned IMCS as a leader in trauma prevention, identification and intervention. Our national network of more than 1,500 psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in PTSD treatment, can help organizations by providing education on PTSD to identify early signs and create an early alert system for intervention when signs arise. IMCS also helps prevent PTSD by implementing a structured system that includes PTSD peer support groups. Education and early intervention in PTSD diagnosis have proven to yield positive results.
Peer counseling success
The Toronto Transit Company implemented a peer counseling group in 2015 to help workers who witnessed suicides on subway tracks. The organization has since seen a 45% reduction in related lost-time injuries following such incidents.
Peer group support success
In Chicago, the Gatekeepers Peer Support Network is described as one of the most effective aspects of the Fire Department’s Employee Assistance Program. Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers considered a proposal to create a state-run program of peer counseling for first responders at all levels of government.