For many of California’s first responders, the emotional shock and psychological effects of working in crises may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, a serious condition that typically requires a period of rest and recovery. Beginning January 1, 2020, firefighters and law enforcement officials in California may apply for workers’ compensation when diagnosed with PTSD.

As reported by The Sacramento Bee, the governor of California signed Senate Bill 542 to help address the growing need for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder among emergency workers, law enforcement and firefighters. The Golden State has experienced shootings and wildfires in record numbers, and concerns for the psychological health of the individuals responding to these events has increased.

Number of suicides greater than line-of-duty fatalities

Reportedly, there were more suicides than on-duty deaths among law enforcement officials and firefighters during the year 2017. An appropriate psychological intervention and recovery time to heal from duty-related stress and trauma may have prevented many of these deaths.

Under the provisions of California’s SB 542, workers’ comp will be available for emergency response employees when their job duties lead to psychological injuries. As noted by Psychology Today, symptoms of PTSD may include anxiety, panic episodes and flashbacks related to an extremely traumatic or stressful event. To fully recover, an individual may require exposure therapy, medication or sessions with a mental health professional.

PTSD symptoms may not display immediately

Many individuals begin to develop symptoms of PTSD some time after the crisis has passed. When symptoms become debilitating and impair an individual from working at her or his normal performance level, he or she may then require specialized treatment. After receiving a diagnosis of PTSD caused by job-related responsibilities, worker’s comp may provide firefighters and law enforcement officers with the paid time off and medical benefits needed to heal and recover.

Requesting benefits

When requested, an employer must provide an injured employee with the necessary paperwork to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Overall, workers’ comp is available for a wide range of job-related injuries. Employers may not attempt to prevent an individual from applying for benefits or fire that person in an act of retaliation.