Okla. Representative Advocates For Mental Health Resources For 1st Responders


Thursday, February 27th 2020, 10:53 am
By: News On 6


An Oklahoma State Representative has spent the last four years advocating to get first responders the mental health resources they need.

Currently in Oklahoma, a mental injury for first responders only qualifies for workers comp if you have a physical injury to go along with it.

Representative Josh West wants that to change. 

Representative West is an Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient. He understands mental trauma after years spent in combat.

Now, he has a desk at the Capitol and is advocating for first responders.

House Bill 2271 would allow first responders to qualify for worker's compensation if they are dealing with PTSD, depression, or other mental illness.

"You know some of the things they see; you can't tell me that doesn't mess with you." West said. "The whole point of this is to help people."

The bill passed through the House 95-0 last year, and it's currently in the Senate committee.

Matt Lay has been a Tulsa firefighter for 15 years and has seen first hand the mental price first responders pay every day helping their community.

"For almost five years now the number of firefighter deaths related to suicide has outpaced the number of line of duty deaths for firefighters." Lay said. "You've just got to do the job. You've just got to focus on the mission, and you are not always paying attention to the impact it is having on you or the members of your unit."

Lay said the Tulsa Fire Department offers peer support like the Fire to Fire program to help fellow firefighters. But he said not all departments offer those services. 

Representative West said he is determined to get this bill passed no matter how long it takes.

2020's legislative session ends in May. 

 

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