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June 27, 2017

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Compromise Frees Passage of FOP's Bill to Cover Colorado Cops for PTSD
Updated On: Mar 27, 2017

The Colorado FOP's PTSD Workers Comp bill (HB 17-1229) just passed third and final reading in the Colorado House of Representatives this morning. The vote for passage was an overwhelming 52 yes, 11 no, and 2 absent. After the vote an additional 19 cosponsors signed on to the bill. The bill will now move to the Senate with bipartisan sponsorship and committee assignment. Hopefully we can move the bill out of committee and secure a successful vote of the full Senate. We are optimistic and will keep you informed.

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A bill that sailed through an initial vote in the House Friday would assure that PTSD is a condition that qualifies for worker’s compensation insurance.

House Bill 1229 is aimed at but doesn’t specify police officers and other first responders. But it describes what usually only they do that could cause post traumatic stress disorder.

“The bill is a long time coming,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont

Singer has tried for three years to get the coverage for first responders, but insurers said it was too broadly written to prevent abuse in the private sector that would drive up premiums for everyone.

This year legislators, insurers and police unions found a compromise by focusing on the causes instead of who should be covered.

Last Tuesday the bill passed out of the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee, 12-1, with Rep, Justin Everett. R-Littleton, the lone opponent. On a voice vote on the House floor Friday, there was no clearly audible opposition.

The bill must still pass a roll-call vote before it bounces to the Senate.

Friday Singer explained how police and other rescuers see the worst things imaginable that leads to PTSD.

“It’s about being stuck in that moment almost permanently,” he said.

“When you come home, you don’t see the faces of your kids; you see dead bodies.”

His co-sponsor in the House is Jon Becker. R-Fort Morgan, who said, “This is about getting help to the people who help us, and to make sure they have access to that help and a clear path at getting it.”

The compromise that jumpstarted the bill this year was recommended by two-time opponent Pinnocol Assurance, the state’s workers’ comp insurer.

While a broadly written law could be abused in the private sector, current workers’ comp law technically disqualifies many police officers. The law says PTSD is covered for events that happen outside a worker’s usual experience, and since violence is part of a first-responders’ usual experience, their claims aren’t covered.

House Bill 1229 gets specific on what can trigger the chronic distress:

·      Experiencing an attempt by another person to cause the worker serious bodily injury or death through the use of deadly force.

·      Witnessing a death, or the immediate aftermath of a death, of one or more people as the result of a violent event.

·      Repeatedly witnessing the serious bodily injury (or immediate aftermath) of one or more people as a result of an intentional act or of an accident.

“As an insurer, Pinnacol must protect the interests of our policyholders as well as their employees,” said Edie Sonn, the vice president of public affairs for Pinnocol. “A lot of times, people think view those as two different – and maybe even competing – things.

“But in this case, they’re the same. We all have an interest in making sure that first responders and others in similar circumstances get help for the mental trauma they may experience on the job.”

She said Pinnacol worked on a compromise that reflected testimony from first responders on previous bills. House Bill 1229 addresses the cumulative exposure to violent incidents without “opening the coverage so broadly it can be claimed inappropriately by other professions.”

Singling out jobs is problematic, however because it creates a “feeding frenzy” of professions that petition to be included.

“From both a policy and a business point of view, we think it makes more sense to identify the particular circumstances that are of concern and then craft a solution that addresses those circumstances,” Sonn said.

The Colorado Fraternal Order of Police said it worked closely with the bill sponsors and Pinnacol after two previous losses.

“A psychological injury is no different than any other work-related injury,” said Longmont Police Sgt. Sean Harper for the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police. “It can be treated, and our first responders can continue serving our communities. The mental health and emotional well-being of our officers should be of the highest importance.”

Author Mar. 27, 2017, by Joey Bunch, ColoradoPolitics.com .  Article courtesy of "Colorado Politics" via "The Gazette" in Colorado Springs


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