Providing coverage to our EMS providers for psychological trauma is not only a good benefit, it’s a public recognition of how we value their service.

Last week, the Idaho Legislature passed through the house the First Responder (SB 1028) that would require workers compensation to cover treatment for psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI). Enactment into law awaits Governor Brad Little’s signature.

Currently, if a first responder – police, firefighters, EMTs -- needs workers compensation to cover treatment for psychological trauma they must have an accompanying physical injury. If someone needs therapy for PTSI, they have to break a leg or get a concussion to get coverage. The law would allow for individuals to get necessary coverage for psychological trauma.

Upon its passage last Thursday, Feb. 28, the bill’s author, Rep. Mat Erpelding, said, “Every day, first responders see things that most of us could not even imagine. Many of these individuals who are affected are in desperate need of care but can’t afford to take the necessary actions. Today, first responders came to celebrate this legislation being signed into law because they have been waiting for the legislature to fix this problem.”

It’s an important benefit to offer to these individuals – both paid employees and volunteers -- who provide such essential services to our communities. That is especially true here in rural Idaho where the challenges in geography and limited resources add yet another strain on the load those folks bear.

This will be especially good news for our EMTs, who last year gathered for a regional meeting in Grangeville and spoke to the ongoing problem of recruiting and retaining volunteers – which is made difficult in part due to the expense in time and personal funds to train and maintain qualifications.

While a benefit for psychological trauma doesn’t address those expense issues, it is a start in providing partial compensation for the hidden costs these volunteers commit to this service – the stress on body and mind -- and that, as a state and as communities, we have their backs.

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