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New law aims to boost access to PTSD treatment for firefighters, law enforcement

Gov. Tony Evers signed a bipartisan bill into law Tuesday that aims to make it easier for firefighters and law enforcement officers to get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The new law allows them to obtain mental healthcare by recognizing the cumulative impact of multiple events in their line of work, an alternative to current workers’ compensation standards, per a signing statement from Evers. Under the law, firefighters and law enforcement officers diagnosed by psychologists or psychiatrists can receive up to 32 weeks of treatment after the injury is first reported. “We know the toll post-traumatic stress can take on our first responders might otherwise go unseen, but today we’re going to help make sure it doesn’t go unheard,” Evers said in a statement. “We’re saying today that we want to dismantle that stigma around post-traumatic stress and mental health—we want our first responders to know that we see these effects, we’re going to call it like it is, and there’s no shame in talking about it or getting help.” “This is a monumentally impactful and lifesaving first step among many that we need to take to address mental health,” Bill author Sen. André Jacque, R-De Pere, said in a statement. Wisconsin EMS Association Executive Director Alan DeYoung wrote the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council last month asking that they consider extending similar standards to emergency medical service providers in their agreed-upon bill for the session. The new law includes some EMS providers due to a connection or affiliation with a fire department. But many don't fall into that category, DeYoung said. “Simply put - it is about recognizing that all EMS providers are essential first responders that face similar experiences and work-related hardships, regardless of if they are employed by a municipal or private-sector-based EMS service,” he wrote in the letter.

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