by Keith M. Phaneuf
May 13, 2019
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Peter Carozza, president of the Uniformed Professional Firefighters Association of Connecticut, discusses the compromise PTSD benefits bill at the Capitol
Legislative leaders unveiled a bipartisan proposal Monday to provide police and firefighters suffering with post traumatic stress disorder with up to one year of workers’ compensation coverage.
Joined also by union leaders and representatives of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, lawmakers predicted the compromise — which ends a six-year debate on stress benefits for first-responders — would be enacted before the 2019 session closes on June 5.
The agreement, which advocates hailed as a national model, also limits eligibility for benefits to those personnel who have experienced at least one of six specific traumatic events.
“Post-traumatic stress is a real injury that you can define and recognize and treat and get people back on the job,” said Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who spearheaded the push to expand workers’ compensation coverage since the December 2012 shooting deaths of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Osten, who is a former prison guard supervisor and who still serves as Sprague’s first selectwoman, brought perspective from both sides in the benefits debate.
“The people who are not here are the people we hold in great regard,” Osten said, referring to police and firefighters who either took their own lives after witnessing a tragic event, or have suffered without treatment from PTSD and have never been able to return to the job.
Critics of the current workers’ compensation system have argued it largely provides mental health benefits to emergency personnel who are the direct victims of violence, and not necessarily to those who witness it in gory detail. At the same time, municipal leaders expressed fears that if modifications weren’t crafted properly, it could become a huge fiscal burden on local property taxpayers.
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But advocates for cities and towns as well as for labor said Monday the compromise is one they can accept.