Minnesota's First Responders Push PTSD Issue at State Capitol

January 31, 2018 10:42 PM

Minnesota's police officers, firefighters and EMTs are lining up in support of a proposed bill to change the state's workers' compensation law and designate post-traumatic stress disorder a presumptive, work-related medical condition.

Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, is one of the bill's sponsors. He said his intent is to make it easier for first responders to seek a workers' compensation claim by making PTSD a presumptive, on-the-job injury.


"This is a way to simplify things for people who put their lives on the line for us every day all across Minnesota, and to show them that we care about them," Frentz said.  "The rate of suicide among firefighters, and other first responders, is nearly three times the rate of the normal population in the United States."

Preliminary estimates show about three new PTSD cases per year would be approved, Frentz said.

"We are not talking about a lot of money to make this happen," Frentz said. "And I think the money it will save by retaining first responders and keeping them in the profession is a great value to any community."

Cam Winton, director of energy and labor management policy with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, told KSTP there will likely be a separate bill from Frentz's. That bill will focus more on PTSD treatment options, rather than placing it under the umbrella of the workers' compensation law, Winton said.

"We all want first responders who are diagnosed with PTSD to get the help they need," Winton said. "And we think the best way to do that is to make sure they are getting the best treatment possible, so that they can remain in the profession and have productive lives outside the job."

The Minnesota League of Cities expressed similar thoughts on how to approach the PTSD issue for first responders.

Scott Geiselhart, a firefighter from Frazee, said he supports the proposed change in the workers' compensation law, but agreed the focus on treatment options is paramount.

"After 15 years of pulling dead bodies from cars, burned homes and lakes, I put a .44 Magnum revolver to my head and pulled the trigger, but it misfired and I was lucky," Geiselhart said. "And then I was able to find help through counseling programs. The PTSD treatment I received as a result saved my life."

The Minnesota House of Representatives has companion legislation to Frentz's proposal. Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, is the sponsor of the House bill.



Jay Kolls

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