West Virginia lawmakers are pushing to pass a bill that would provide workers compensation to first responders suffering from PTSD.
In 2017, more first responders died by suicide than in the line of duty.
It is a national trend, but one that hits close to home for the Huntington Fire Department. Back in October, 13 News first introduced you to Bob Coleman in our piece, First Watch: Helping the Heroes Who Help Us.
“We hope that no other family has to go what we went through,” said Coleman.
The retired firefighter lost his son, Chris, to suicide in October. At the time of his death, Chris was following in Dad’s footsteps, fighting fires with the Huntington Fire Department.
“A physical injury is compensatable but a mental injury should be too,” Coleman told 13 News. “Us first responders…. firefighter, ems, police… we see things that we can’t unsee.”
It is estimated that 85% of all first responders deal with some sort of mental illness at some point within their career, according to a study done by the University of Pheonix.
Local lawmakers recognize that something needs to be done, and are working towards providing help for those who need it as both the House and the Senate have introduced bills that would provide worker compensation to first responders diganosed with PTSD.
Cabell County Delegate, Chad Lovejoy is the sponsor of the house’s version of the bill.
“This is a life or death issue,” said Lovejoy.
“We have men and women whose lives are being taken, sometimes at their own hands, sometimes by coping mechanics. This is not a small undertaking, but this could really save some lives.”
The first responder would have to be diagnosed by a licensed psychatrist and the trauma must have occured on the job.
A similar bill was introduced last session, but failed. However, Lovejoy believes this year is different.
“More people have come on board, I think we have seen the trend here and more people recognize how big of a problem this actually is,” said Lovejoy.
The Senate’s version of the bill was introduced to the Committe on Finance. Meanwhile the House version heads to the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.
Help is always available. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 day a week at 1-800-273-8255.