New Law Gives Oklahoma First Responders Better Access To Mental Health Treatment

The law allows first responders to qualify for worker's compensation if they get diagnosed with PTSD or have other mental health injuries.

Friday, May 10th 2024, 5:34 pm



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May is Mental Health Awareness and Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law this week, giving first responders better access to mental health treatment without fear of losing their job.

The law allows first responders to qualify for worker's compensation if they get diagnosed with PTSD or have other mental health injuries.

Statistics show first responders are more likely to die from suicide than any on-the-job death like a fire, shooting, or wreck. This law gives first responders a way to get help before it's too late. 

From deadly crashes to homicide scenes to fatal house fires, first responders across Oklahoma have to deal with tragedy every single day. Before this new law, mental health injuries for first responders didn't fall under workers comp. 

"Sometime in your career, you get to a point where you need some help. In the past we kind of ignored that, we didn't want to touch on that because it could affect your employment,” said Representative Stan May, who is also a retired Tulsa Fire Captain. 

Representative Stan May worked 30 years for the Tulsa Fire Department and said the department got around 10,000 calls for service a year when he started, and now it's around 70,000. He says these men and women see the worst things possible, every day. 

"The problem is, each one of those victims, it reminds you of your parents, or your spouse, or kids, or your grandkids. That's how you relate to the victim. You see that, oh it's the same age as my grandson. That starts affecting you after a while,” said May. 

May said in the past, there's been a stigma around mental health issues and first responders seeking help. 

They are viewed as tough, but he says they are also human.

"The things we see now are so much more horrific, and there's so many of them that eventually it takes a toll. If you don't start getting help early in your career, it's going to mount up and going to affect you and your family,” said May. "The investment in somebody’s mental health is well worth the outcome on the other end."

The new law will go into effect in January. 

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