PTSD soon to be covered by workers’ comp in Colorado

Jan 24 2018

Deputy Sheriff Zackari Spurloff was killed in the line of duty on New Years’ Eve. Spurloff responded to a call in which gunman Matthew Riehl shot over 100 bullets at responding officers before being taken down by the SWAT team. The deadly altercation lasted over ninety minutes.

Four other deputies and two civilians were wounded and are recovering from their injuries. For the deputies left behind after Spurloff’s death, the wounds are not just physical. Spurloff had over 1200 people attend a livestream of his memorial service and was considered a hero by his community.

Worker’s comp to cover PTSD in July

Colorado legislators passed HB 17-1229 in 2017 which amended the workers’ compensation law. In the past, mental impairment stemming from jobs in which violence was a regular part of the position was not eligible for coverage. The trauma a person might experience was just considered part of the job.

Now first responders and others who regularly experience traumatic stress as part of their job are covered for mental impairment. This includes post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). They are able to receive the support of a licensed therapist or psychiatrist for their mental and emotional health.

Colorado’s police union pushed for the bill’s passage

The Fraternal Order of Police helped draft the bill beginning in 2014. The police union acted as a driving force to get it passed in the legislature. Recognition of how on the job stress is a factor in someone’s health and wellbeing was a long time in coming in Colorado.

First responders and emergency workers see and experience things most people would have trouble imagining. Having emotional support and mental health services covered by workers’ comp is a key component in their recovery from trauma.

Suicide a huge issue for emergency workers

Between 2004 and 2014, 130 emergency response personnel were lost to suicide due to the effects of work-inflicted traumatic stress. The statistics for suicide and contemplation of suicide are ten times greater than the average adult. The bill is considered a major win for emergency responders in Colorado.

If you or a loved one has experience an injury at work, including mental impairment, speaking to an attorney who focuses on workers’ compensation claims could be an important step to take.