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New Mindset on Mental Health

Societal changes are tilting public opinion in favor of enacting laws that provide first responders with workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In June alone, at least two states — Colorado and Texas — enacted laws easing the way for police, firefighters and paramedics diagnosed with PTSD to receive benefits. During the same month, lawmakers in Vermont and Maine sent legislation to their governors that would presume PTSD suffered by first responders is work-related.

Local governments, along with some insurer groups, have opposed, for fear of paying for a flood of new claims. Debate over adopting the laws includes conventional workers’ comp considerations like whether the claims are legitimately work-related.

But there is another, not-so traditional force at work.

Nearly six years ago when a former fire captain named Jeff Dill launched an organization called Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, few people talked about suicide prevention, addiction, and PTSD among first responders.

There is a cultural shift underway. The stigma around acknowledging mental ailments is falling away, lending legitimacy to treatment.

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