CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – It is estimated that 30-percent of first responders develop behavioral health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – related to their jobs.
“As first responders, we are here to protect the citizens of West Virginia, all we are asking is for them to protect us,” says Chief Virgil white with the South Charleston Fire Department. He goes on to say, “there is always something that will trigger a memory. whether it’s the smell of diesel or a certain sound that you hear or for some even as simple as a song on the radio all that could trigger a call that you ran.”
Some West Virginia lawmakers have been fighting for years to help. This legislative session delegate Chad Lovejoy (D- Cabell) pushes yet again to get workers’ compensation to first responders diagnosed with PTSD.
“So I’m from Huntington and we have been kind of ground zero for a lot of the drug epidemic and a lot of our first responders have been the men and women who suffer,” Lovejoy tells 13 News.
The opioid crisis seems to be a common denominator for many West Virginia first responders experiencing trauma.
“Especially when you are running five, six, ten overdoses a day, that you are constantly trying to save somebody’s life and a lot of times it is the same person over and over,” White says.
It’s not just for firefighters and police officers that could benefit. Advocates for the bill are trying to add 911 dispatchers to the list.
“There’s a lot of times 911 dispatchers never find out what the results are on the call, whether they passed away or revived them, and that puts a lot of stress on you too because when you are a caring person and you are going to that length to try to help them you always want to know what the outcome is,” says dispatcher advocate, Jim Brown.
“We are in here fighting for you, we want you to get the help you need if you need the help, we want you to know the help is available and get that help,” says Delegate David kelly (R- Tyler).
As the bill comes close to a final vote on the house floor it is picking up traction from both sides of the aisle. In Thursday’s house floor session the bill was advanced to third reading with the right to amend for Friday.
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