Monday, June 24, 2024

First responders to have PTSD medical care covered under bipartisan bill

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TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a bipartisan bill for first responders to seek medical care for diagnosed PTSD without having to pay up themselves.

Tulsa Firefighters Union Local 176 President Matt Lay is glad the state passed Senate Bill 1457 and said mental health issues, especially in those whose duty it is to serve and protect, are tougher to spot.

“If a firefighter or police officer breaks their leg, you got an x-ray and there’s treatment options available, injury benefits, things like that,” Lay told 2 News. “Something like this is much, much harder.

Mental trauma hits close to home for many with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol as well, OHP Trooper and military veteran Matthew Krupczyk especially.
“I have a bunch of friends with PTSD from going overseas. My brother works for the VA in Buffalo at the PTSD clinic,” Tpr. Krupczyk said. “So me personally, yes, I’m very supportive of anything that would help support people with PTSD. I don’t think there’s anybody that wouldn’t support mental health.”

For large-sized Oklahoma departments, there are providers like First Responders Support Services and Oklahoma First Responders Wellness Division. However, there has never been compensation for diagnosed PTSD treatment, like that of a physical injury.

Oklahoma’s legislature has tried to pass nearly identical bills in the past, but they’ve failed for various reasons. On May 2, the Oklahoma Senate unanimously passed SB1457.

Previous coverage >>> Mental health resources for first responders

State Fraternal Order of Police Chairman Mark Nelson followed the bill closely and said it will save lives if signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

“It’s now federally recognized as a line of duty death if an officer commits suicide. So there’s a lot to unpack as it relates to this, but this is a great first step,” Nelson said.

Lay said he hopes to stand next to Gov.Stitt for the signing of the bill, knowing what it means for his comrades.
“Anything to get treatment options available to these men and women is worth doing,” Lay said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, call 988 or explore the resources provided in this page.

Click here for more information about the International Association of Firefighters Recovery Center.

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