Ohio House Bill 308 Establishes PTSD Fund for First Responders
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio House Bill on January 9, 202. It provides for the creation of a fund for post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by Ohio’s first responders. The new law seeks to provide compensation to public safety officers who undergo post-traumatic stress disorder, without any accompanying physical injury, arising out of, and received in the course of, employment. The fund provides compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder and covers medical expenses including hospital bills, therapy, and cost of medicines. The new law is of great significance as phycological injuries alone were not compensable under Ohio law before the passing of this bill.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disease that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event including war, severe accidents, and natural disasters. People with this disorder have nightmares, severe anxiety, or uncontrollable thoughts related to the said terrifying event. According to the American Psychiatric Association, post-traumatic stress disorder affects approximately 3.5% of adults in the United States every year. First responders are even more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Old Law
Previously, Ohio law did not provide any compensation for psychological disorders without there being accompanying physical injuries. In Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co., the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that there should be proximate cause between the physical injuries and a psychological condition, like post-traumatic stress disorder,for it to be compensable.An individual cannot claim compensation for psychological disorders if there is no physical injury suffered from an accident or event. Thus, in order to claim compensation for a psychological condition, the claimant has to establish a nexus between the physical injuries and the development of the psychological condition. This law applied to first responders as well.
The New Law
Presently, House Bill 308, while maintaining the logic behind Armstrong, carves out an exception in favor of first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from psychological injuries that occurred in the course of employment. Whether it is shootings, accidents, domestic abuse, or natural disasters, first responders frequently witness traumatic events. First responders may undergo psychological trauma while witnessing severe injuries in the line of duty, but they may not necessarily suffer from physical injuries as well. House Bill 308 recognizes the same and provides compensation to first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The law applies to first responders including firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical workers.
The fund will be independent of Ohio’s Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and will be overseen by Ohio’s director of budget and management and Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund. The law also requires that a study be conducted on the administration of funds and submitted to the Ohio legislature by October 1, 2021. Presently, the bill does not define the term ‘first responders’ and does not specify the process to determine eligibility for the claimants. The bill does not authorize payment of benefits to first responders under the fund.