Yesterday, 04/12/17 the Colorado FOP's PTSD Workers Comp bill (HB 17-1229) passed the Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee unamended. The committee vote (6 yes and 1 no) was overwhelmingly in favor of moving this very important bill forward. The one “no” vote was cast by Senator Tim Neville (R) Senate District 16 which encompasses all or parts of Boulder, Jefferson, Summit, Grand, Gilpin, and Clear Creek Counties.
Our bill now moves to a roll call vote of the entire Senate. It will be subject to possible amendment on 2nd reading to the full Senate. It is our fervent belief that any amendment would only serve to weaken or kill the bill, and we will fight any attempt to amend. We are confident that if any amendments are introduced, we will be able to explain why they should be rejected. We also strongly believe the support is in place to pass this bill unamended out of the Senate and get it to the Governor for his signature into law.
Once signed into law by the Governor, House Bill 1229 will ensure that PTSD is a condition that qualifies for worker’s compensation insurance. The bill is aimed at but doesn’t specify police officers and other first responders. However, that group of workers is who the bill was written and designed to most likely benefit from its passage. It also streamlines the process of filing for and receiving workers’ compensation for those brave men and women who serve their community unselfishly to ensure the public’s safety. This bill covers all first responders including dispatchers.
Unlike all other employees in Colorado, police officers and other first responders under current statute are invariably denied any claims of workplace mental trauma induced impairment (specifically PTSD). Under current law, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not clearly defined, making reporting and filing mental impairment claims or PTSD after workers experience a traumatic event difficult for police officers and first responders. This bill will change current law and open the door for police officers and other first responders access to workers comp for diagnosed work related PTSD.
This all began a few years ago with an idea for legislation, and a conversation with State Rep Jonathan Singer concerning the alarming rate of denials for work related PTSD by workers’ comp combined with the growing number of police and first responder suicides. So, we started this impossible challenge of changing the law and shining a bright light on PTSD in our profession four years ago, with no support and basically every potential stakeholder lined up against us. And now we are concluding with all opposition moved to our side of this issue four years later. It did not happen overnight or by happenstance. The FOP knew what we had to do to make this happen and engaged in coalition building and some compromise to educate our opposition and gain their understanding and support. We gained the support of Colorado Sheriffs right out of the gate and they have been with us all the way. And throughout all of this Rep Singer has stood alongside of us fighting this righteous fight.
Having solidified our coalition of stakeholders for support has resulted in finally getting this legislation to a point of becoming reality. So far, this legislative session the political support for passage has been both strong and bipartisan. To date we passed the House Committee 12 - 1, a full vote of the House 52 - 11 -2 and gained an additional 19 House co-sponsors, and now we have moved this out of a key Senate Committee with a 6 – 1 vote. We are certain we have the bipartisan support necessary to get this bill out of the Senate and to the Governor’s desk. We are optimistic that the votes are there to move the bill to the Governor and we have no indication of veto
So, for us, four years of hard and at times almost impossible work, along with a lot of blood sweat and tears feels good right now. We are grateful to our primary bill sponsors Rep Jonathan Singer (D) and Rep Jon Becker (R) in the House, and Sen John Cooke (R) and Sen Nancy Todd (D) in the Senate for their unwavering support, hard work, and genuine belief in this bill.
This bill and its progress is being monitored by State FOP's across the country. Getting it through helps our efforts in other states. It is being looked at as a model both in language and the work we did in brininging all sides together in addressing this serious matter. This is pretty big and there is no doubt this will save lives and families. We will continue to update as this bill progresses.