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State Senator

Cathy Osten

Representing Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich & Sprague

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Sen. Osten Celebrates Signing of Life-Changing Bill for Police and Firefighters

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State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) joined Governor Ned Lamont and a host of police and fire officials and state lawmakers today at a bill signing ceremony at Engine 10 of the Waterbury Fire Department to commemorate the adoption of a new state law that will provide workers’ compensation benefits to police officers, parole officers and firefighters who have been diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress injury after witnessing an unnerving event in the line of duty.

Previously, workers’ compensation covered mental health injuries only when they were sustained in conjunction with physical injuries.

But after a half-decade of advocacy by Sen. Osten and others, the new law extends that coverage, recognizing that first responders in particular can be exposed to events on the job that can cause difficulty coping or adjusting for weeks and months at a time, sometimes leading to intense flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and depression.

“For too long, public policy has put mental health treatment on the back burner, and it has weighed mental health injuries on a separate scale from physical injuries. Those days have come to an end,” Sen. Osten said. “This law is a significant step forward in the equality of treatment for mental health injuries. It recognizes that post-traumatic stress is an actual condition that can be treated, and when treated, allows a person to return to work. That’s what workers’ compensation is for. We owe it to these affected individuals – who so often go into harm’s way so we don’t have to – to help them put their lives back together.”

During her comments in the Waterbury firehouse, Sen. Osten hugged Trish Buchanan, another advocate for workers’ compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress injuries, whose husband Paul – an East Hartford police officer – killed himself in March 2013. “First responders dedicate their lives to the safety of our neighborhoods, and we owe it to them to be there when the actions they took to protect others causes injuries to themselves – regardless of whether those injuries are physical or mental,” Governor Lamont said. “Modern scientific research is showing the immense impact that mental health issues can have on a person, and our statutes should reflect that. I am proud to stand side-by-side with our state’s police and firefighting community as I sign this important bill into law.”

Coverage will now be available to police officers, parole officers, and firefighters who have experienced one of the following six events:

  • Witnessing the death of a person;
  • Witnessing an injury that causes the death of a person shortly thereafter;
  • Treating an injured person who dies shortly thereafter;
  • Carrying an injured person who dies shortly thereafter;
  • Viewing a deceased minor; and
  • Witnessing an incident that causes a person to lose a body part, to suffer a loss of function, or that results in permanent disfigurement.

In addition, the law requires the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee to study the cost and impact of adding emergency medical services personnel and certain Department of Correction employees to the list of covered employees. The concept for the legislation was first introduced in the General Assembly following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in which 20 children and 6 adults were murdered.

The bill language was written in consultation with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and police and firefighters union representatives after many months of negotiation and debate. It received unanimous, bipartisan support in the General Assembly.

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