Today, 04/19/17 the Colorado FOP's PTSD Workers Comp bill (HB 17-1229) passed the full Colorado Senate unamended on 3rd and final reading. The bill is on its way to the Governor for his action. There was some concern about having enough votes to pass the bill unamended. As a result we launched a mail and phone campaign over the Easter weekend and our members responded in strong numbers contacting their Senators urging passage unamended.
On Monday our lobbyist joined forces with other lobbyists representing groups supporting this bill and after much hard work were able to insure passage. The opposition simply did not have enough support. On Tuesday the second reading (voice) vote was unanimous which brought us to today's historical vote. The bill now goes to the Governor for his action with no indication of veto.
With the passage of this bill, Colorado will become one of a handful of states that recognizes work related PTSD for its first responders and will provide coverage for treatment for those so diagnosed. Unlike all other employees in Colorado, police officers and other first responders under current statute have been 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 four years ago with an idea for legislation by our FOP State Director Mike Violette, and a conversation with State Rep Jonathan Singer concerning the alarming rate of denials of workers' comp for police officers with diagnosed work related PTSD, combined with a 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. We were also joined by CPPA and the troopers association in this effort last year. 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.
To date, 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 gaining an additional 19 House co-sponsors, a key Senate Committee with a 6 - 1 vote and finally passage by the full Senate 28 - 6 - 1.
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 pleased beyond belief to have accomplished getting this legislation passed. It was by far not an easy task, but we got it done. There is no doubt this legislation will save first responder familiies and lives.
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 bringing all sides together in addressing this serious matter. This is a pretty big accomplishment, and there is no doubt this will save lives and families. We will update when the bill is signed into law.