New MN Law to Help First Responders with PTSD

Source: Vector Illustration - 123RF

Rochester, MN – KIMT3 News reports that a new law taking effect this year in Minnesota will help first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) get coverage through workers’ compensation.

The new law states that if a public safety employee like a firefighter, corrections officer, or paramedic is diagnosed with PTSD, it is going to be presumed that the disorder is work-related. As a result, if a public safety employee is newly diagnosed with PTSD, they will receive workers’ compensation.

Rochester Fire Department’s Captain Caleb Feine calls the effort “a step in the right direction”, adding, “It’s extremely important to keep up with the times and we’re giving support to people who need it now in the places we need it.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA:

  • Over 50% of firefighter deaths are from stress or exhaustion, not fires;
  • About 30% of firefighters report having depression or PTSD, above the general population’s 20%; and
  • About 47% of police officers reported having depression or anxiety in the post 9/11 era.

SAMHSA states that depression is commonly reported in first responders, and rates of depression, as well as severity, vary across studies.

For instance, in a case-control study of certified EMS professionals, depression was reported in 6.8 percent, with mild depression the most common type.

The nature of the work of firefighters, including repeated exposure to painful and provocative experiences and erratic sleep schedules, can pose significant risk to firefighters’ mental health.

Both natural and technological disasters were found to be associated with increased risk of these conditions, as were factors such as resiliency, trust in self and team, duration on the disaster scene, individual coping style, and post-disaster mental health support.