We are one of the very few states where emergency dispatchers do not have to expect a fight to get workers’ compensation to pay for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Minnesota 911 dispatchers generally should be able to count on getting help for professionally diagnosed PTSD.
What is your emergency?
Just about every 911 dispatcher has dealt with and heard many things most of us do not want to hear, or even hear about. Each person who answers when we call 911 has stories they do not talk about often, if ever.
Describing the first call she ever answered on the job, one dispatcher said, “It was a homicide and suicide. It was awful. It was devastating. It was horrible.”
Dispatcher PTSD now more often listed as a job-related issue
Last year especially, momentum has seemingly picked up as states pass laws declaring PTSD in certain first responders as “presumptive” (work-related by default) for workers’ compensation. What does that mean?
Most work injuries and many illnesses have obvious causes.
If a box of vodka bottles falls on a warehouse workers’ head, everyone is likely to agree the resulting injuries are job-related. But it can be impossible to prove that a specific tumor, for example, would not have grown on the lung of a firefighter “if not for” their job.
So, most states have laws making insurance companies cover workers’ compensation for people with specified jobs when they come down with specified medical problems. Under most of these laws, the “presumptive” cause in a specific case is “rebuttable,” but companies mostly just pay up.
Minnesota, Vermont, and a few other states and local governments have made PTSD presumptive in 911 dispatchers, but they are more frequently left off bills covering police and firefighters who hit the streets in an emergency.
Fewer medical mysteries but the battle for access goes on
For the most part, disagreements about the causes, symptoms or treatment of PTSD involve the insurance industry and employers rather than doctors and health researchers. Mental health experts are not especially divided on the condition, especially when it comes to emergency 911 dispatchers and other first responders.
A landmark 2012 study of PTSD was the first one “looking at mental health in telecommunicators.”
One of its authors, a Northern Illinois University researcher, says “These treatments do not require long therapy but are specifically focused on helping the person alleviate their PTSD symptoms. If people could get access to those types of treatments, they would be in a good position to recover from their PTSD.”