Lawmaker Proposes Changes To Workers’ Compensation Laws
Rep. Stephen Dargan may still be fielding phone calls over his proposal to make gun permit information public, but another piece of legislation he proposed has already found support from the Newtown community.
Dargan introduced a bill that that would require workers’ compensation benefits to cover post-traumatic stress disorder for first responders.
“When everyone is running away from a tragic scene, they’re running to it,” Dargan said Wednesday.
Earlier this week the Newtown Police Commission passed a resolution asking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders to enact similar legislation for the first responders and Sandy Hook School employees.
“Given the extraordinary effort and bravery exhibited by members of the Newtown Police Department, first responders, teachers and staff of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, fairness and compassion dictates that the workers’ compensation laws of Connecticut be amended to provide appropriate benefits for all those who sustained physical and emotional injury as a consequence of their heroic efforts within the scope of their employment on and after Dec. 14, 2012,” the resolution says.
Connecticut’s workers’ compensation laws cover emotional injuries from the use of deadly force by police officers, but don’t account for an emotional distress suffered as a result of walking into rooms filled with bodies.
“There are a number of first responders who were severely impacted,” Dargan said.
He said he understands covering post-traumatic stress will increase the cost of insurance for municipalities, but he thinks it’s a conversation the state should have.
The Employee Assistance Program offers individuals help in the short term with any psychological pain and suffering, but Dargan said PTSD may not show up for years in some of the first responders.
The opposition to the proposal is likely to be centered on the fiscal implications for the town, which provides the workers’ compensation insurance to its employees.
But Dargan believes the legislature can craft the law in such a way that only applies to these types of extreme circumstances.
In the meantime, some of the 13 Newtown police officers who were directly involved in responding to the shooting remain out of work without pay. Some of the officers have remained on the job.
Newtown Police Union President Scott Ruszczyk told the Register Citizen that even though some of the officers aren’t being paid they are being supported with private donations.