HARRISBURG, Pa. — A lot of resources are allocated to train, educate, and prepare first responders for the job, but the lawmakers working on new legislation say we sometimes fail to provide the support needed for first responders.
Under the bill, first responders would be entitled to benefits under the state's workers' compensation law for any psychological traumas that happen from the job. Senators Camera Bartolotta and Mike Regan, both republicans working on this bill, say in their co-sponsorship memo, it can be difficult for first responders to establish a PTSI claim because they must prove "objective abnormal working conditions." This legislation would create clear criteria for establishing a PTSI claim and would require a diagnosis.
Nathan Harig with Cumberland Goodwill EMS in Cumberland County, said the legislation is a step in the right direction, but there are some concerns especially with requiring a diagnosis. He said getting help or a required diagnosis is something first responders don't always do because of the stigma surrounding it.
"I absolutely think one of the ways to make this a very successful program is to just say first responders get mental health care for free, and take off all sorts of requirements for diagnosis," Harig said. "Just say, 'hey, first responders in Pennsylvania you have this wonderful resource, go talk to them because honestly most of the therapists, counselors, whatever is out there, they want your betterment and they just want to help you.'"
Harig also said he would like the legislation to apply to all first responders regardless of if they are volunteers, full-time, or part-time.
The lawmakers working on this bill are expected to introduce it in the coming weeks.