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House passes bill to help stanch rise in retirements among Minnesota first responders due to PTSD

Peace officers and firefighters are retiring at record rates, in large part due to post-traumatic stress disorder they develop because of the considerable job-related trauma they experience.

Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul) hopes to reverse that trend.

HF1234 would help first responders get the mental health services they need to keep them from early retirement due to post-traumatic stress disorder. The tide of early retirements due to PTSD is very burdensome on cities and counties struggling to pay disability pensions and contributes to a police staffing shortage, said Her, the bill sponsor.

The bill would require up to 32 weeks of mental health treatment before an applicant with a psychological condition, such as PTSD, or other serious mental health issue could apply for duty disability benefits. Public safety agencies would be required to continue paying the employee’s full salary and employer-provided benefits during the treatment period.

“(This is a) groundbreaking and historic attempt to reverse the increase in PTSD duty disability trends we’ve seen by putting the focus on treatment, recovery, and return,” Her said.

House members amended it twice during a Monday afternoon discussion before passing it 89-41 in the evening.

Preventing PTSD is also part of the bill through establishment of training programs to prepare public safety officers for the on-the-job trauma they will face and identify when officers have developed PTSD.

Students studying law enforcement and currently employed licensed police officers would also be required to undergo the training.

Her said several public safety organizations support the proposed legislation, including the St. Paul Fire Department, Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, and Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

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