House Bill 52 looks to make mental health treatment easier to get for Ky. firefighters

House Bill 52 is looking to give firefighters easier access to mental health treatment.
Published: Feb. 26, 2023 at 11:56 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Earlier this week members of the House Local Government Committee passed House Bill 52.

The bill would make it easier for firefighters to get full benefits to treat stress injuries and PTSD.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 73 percent of firefighters are impacted by PTSD but most don’t even realize it.

However with the help of House Bill 52, they’ll now be able to more readily get the treatment they deserve.

When it comes to life’s worst disasters firefighters are always on call.

Who is there to answer the call when they’re in need? Brian O’Neill, the Legislative Director for Kentucky Professional Firefighters, said he’s working to find that help.

“We’re the helpers,” O’Neill said. “So we’re expected to be the people that others call upon to come and fix things and come and help others. So it’s very difficult sometimes for our people to admit that they need help as well and that they might need someone to come to assist and help them.”

O’Neill has been working for years to ensure firefighters get the help they need.

A bill he worked on two years ago put into law that firefighters would be fully reimbursed for any treatment they received but required a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder or post traumatic stress injuries.

House Bill 52 expands the diagnosis to address more firefighters.

“It’s a little bit broader so we can cover more people and that will delve into anxiety and depression and co-occurring addictions without the requirement of that PTSD diagnosis,” O’Neill said.

He hopes to make sure the resources are available for firefighters but also inspire them to use the resources.

“If I injured my knee on a fire nobody blinks twice about me going to rehab and bettering myself and coming back to work strong and it should be no different for mental injuries as well,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said that providing adequate treatment for those who sacrifice so much is the least we can do.

“Our mission is to take care of the community and to mitigate disaster,” O’Neill said. “All that we’re asking for in return is that the injuries that we suffer as a result of that profession that we get the treatment that we need.”

The house should vote on the bill Tuesday. Then it will be up to the senate to approve it.

If you’d like to read the bill in it’s entirety you can click here.