Bill to support firefighters getting help for PTSD in danger of dying

House Bill 52, a bill that would make it easier for firefighters to get PTSD treatment, has to pass within the last two legislative days
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 11:05 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A bill to support firefighters is in danger of dying after it was withdrawn from the senate this week.

House Bill 52 would make it easier for firefighters in Kentucky to get services for PTSD and other mental health woes by extending the treatment window.

With there only being two legislative days left in session, time is of the essence to get this bill back on the senate floor or else benefits for a lot of firefighters will be in jeopardy.

About one month ago it seemed to be smooth sailings for House Bill 52.

Legislative Director for Kentucky Professional Firefighters Brian O’Neil said the bill passed unanimously on the House floor and was expected to do the same in the Senate, until it didn’t.

“It was sent over to the Senate, it was assigned to a committee but was never able to be called into a committee,” O’Neil said. “So at that point it kind of sits, so it still a reading, still needs to pass a committee and go through three readings.”

House Bill 52 expands on a bill that was passed two years ago, ensuring firefighters get the treatment they need and makes it easier for them to get a diagnosis for their mental struggles.

If it doesn’t pass, the impacts can be detrimental.

“There are some firefighters right now receiving benefits that will drop off and will lose that if we don’t get this passed,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil said the cost for this bill has already been funded, so all there’s left to do is to prove to the Senate how important this bill truly is.

“We will have some conversations with some senators over the weekend,” O’Neil said. “We will also be speaking with senators Monday and Tuesday to try to set this up to make sure that we can either get it attached to another bill so we can make it through or so we can get the readings on necessary on Wednesday and Thursday to make it through.”

Firefighters said they’re used to being the helpers and not the takers in society. That, along with the stigma behind mental health in their profession, makes it hard for firefighters to get the help they need.

O’Neil wants to ensure the financial aspect will lighten the load.

“And knowing that that hurdle is removed with this bill, knowing that you won’t have to worry about the financial resources that could be impacted by seeking this help, that’s a huge burden that’s taken off,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil said that right now they’re hearing mixed responses on the bill’s chances but he’s remaining optimistic they will get the it passed.