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Senate amends ‘first responder mental injury’ proposal, send bill to Wyo. House

(Courtesy of Wyoming Highway Patrol)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Senate have passed Senate File 117 on three readings which aims to allow firefighters, law enforcement personnel, search and rescue personnel and ambulance personnel to receive workers compensation when they experience “mental injuries.”

The Senate adopted an amendment ahead of their Wednesday, Feb. 26 third reading vote on the proposed legislation. That amendment would place a cap on the amount of compensation first responders with mental injuries could receive.

Senate President Drew Perkins said the reason for the amendment was to ensure that “we wouldn’t have double dipping” and that the state wouldn’ “pay anything you would get above and beyond disability pay under workers comp.”

“I think it is a good amendment that serves to protect the fund,” Senate District 04 Senator Tara Nethercott said, calling the amendment a “healthy compromise.”

After the Senate adopted the amendment, Senate District 27 Senator Bill Landen praised the overall legislation.

“I just really wanted to commend the travels of this bill,” he said. “Mental health and substance abuse….has to remain on our radar screen. I think this is really going to make a difference.”

Mental injuries would qualify under the proposed rules if they are “experienced by a first responder and established by clear and convincing evidence, which shall include a diagnosis by a licensed psychiatrist, licensed clinical psychologist or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.”

“The mental injury shall not be considered a compensable injury if the mental injury is directly attributed to disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination or similar action taken by an employer,” the proposed bill reads. “In no event shall any disability benefit for a compensable mental injury under this subdivision be paid in an amount that would, when combined with all other payments made to the first responder for the compensable mental injury from other sources, exceed the amount otherwise due under W.S. 27-4-403.”

The proposal would also allow first responders to receive workers compensation for mental injuries which accompany physical injuries which they sustain, but they could only receive such compensation for up to “six (6) months after an injured employee’s physical injury has healed to the point that it is not reasonably expected to substantially improve.”

Nethercott provided an example of what the legislation aims to address during the Senate’s first reading discussion.

“Take the scenario when there’s an officer-involved shooting where the officer isn’t shot, but he’s shot at and ends up taking someone’s life,” she said. “When does he go back to work? The next day? He just killed someone the night before and now you’re expecting him to write parking citations.”

The Senate passed the legislation on third reading on a vote of 24-6:

Ayes: AGAR, ANDERSON, ANSELMI-DALTON, BALDWIN, BITEMAN, BONER, BOUCHARD, DOCKSTADER, ELLIS, GIERAU, HUTCHINGS, JAMES, KOST, LANDEN, MONIZ, NETHERCOTT, PAPPAS, PERKINS, ROTHFUSS, SCHULER, SCOTT, STEINMETZ, VON FLATERN, WASSERBURGER
Nays: BEBOUT, CASE, COE, DRISKILL, HICKS, KINSKEY

Wyoming Legislative Service Office

The bill will move to the House for consideration.

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