First responders will start receiving workers’ comp for mental injuries

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs face some of the most horrific situations every day. For these first responders, it is impossible at the end of the day to forget about the things they saw and the stories they heard. This negatively impacts their overall mental health. Throughout the country last year, more first responders committed suicide than were killed in the line of duty. In Idaho, lawmakers are trying to ensure this happens to fewer emergency workers in the state.

It was in early February that a bill was introduced into the Idaho legislature that expands workers’ compensation for first responders. Prior to the bill being introduced, these individuals did not receive any benefits for mental injuries. This either leaves them paying out-of-pocket for things like counseling, or neglecting to get the mental health treatment they so badly need.

Representative Mat Erpelding of Boise sponsored the bill that would make life easier to cope with for first responders in Idaho. After introducing the bill, the Senate Commerce and Human Resources committee passed the bill unanimously. In the middle of March, Governor Brad Little signed the bill into law. Now, Idaho first responders can enjoy the same workers’ compensation benefits as those in a similar position in states such as California and New Jersey.

This bill is also not the only one in the Idaho legislature focused on helping first responders. Another bill introduced at the beginning of the year, House Bill 1066, would also create a public safety research fund. This would allow the state to improve the physical health and safety, as well as the psychological well-being of first responders. This bill also recognized the toll these jobs take on those that perform them, and how important it is to ensure these workers are protected.

“With everything we know about mental health today, and the awareness that has been raised over the past several years, it’s unconscionable that we didn’t already have something like this in place,” says Bruce Skaug of Skaug Law, PC.  “We cannot deny necessary benefits to those that are placed under the most intense kind of pressure every day.”