California Debates Extending PTSD Coverage to More First Responders

by | May 9, 2023 | Health

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health crisis, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing “988,” or the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.

A paramedic for about 30 years, Susan Farren knew all was not well with first responders: Eight of her colleagues had died by suicide. Others had grappled with substance abuse or gone through painful divorces.

So, in 2018, Farren founded a nonprofit in Santa Rosa to train and support emergency personnel struggling with trauma and stress. Hundreds of firefighters, police officers, and other first responders have since availed themselves of the organization’s timely help.

“Nobody prepares you to walk into a house where four people have been murdered,” said Farren, executive director of First Responders Resiliency, Inc.

Firefighters, paramedics, and police often respond to the worst days of people’s lives — accidents, deaths, fires, and other distressing events. After the deadly mass shootings earlier this year in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, and countless others across the country, awareness of how such trauma affects first responders has grown.

But there is no national consensus on when and which emergency personnel should be provided workers’ compensation benefits.

“We wouldn’t think twice about taking care of a first responder who broke their leg, and we shouldn’t think twice about taking care of their mental health needs,” Karen Larsen, CEO of the Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit public policy institute, said in an email.

This year, there has been a …

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