O’Mara bill removing barrier to first responder care clears House committee

HARRISBURG, MARCH 4 -- State Rep. Jennifer O’Mara’s legislation prioritizing first responders’ mental health and their accessibility to treatment cleared the House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee today by an overwhelming majority.

The bipartisan-backed bill, H.B. 1632, would add Post-Traumatic Stress Injury as an eligible claim for first responders filing for worker’s compensation. To qualify, the injury would have to be brought on as a result of the first responder’s job duties and the individual would have to have received a PTSI diagnosis from a licensed medical or mental health professional.

“Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs provide invaluable services to their communities,” O’Mara said. “They run head-on into catastrophic situations so we don’t have to, in many instances putting their own lives on the line. However, doing that time and time again comes at a price. About one third of emergency responders develop mental health conditions due to the nature of their work, which regularly requires them to witness and navigate the most tragic events.

“Enduring depression or PTSI should never be normalized as part of the job. Mental health care should be accessible and encouraged, especially to first responders whom we depend on to keep us safe,” she said.

House Bill 1632 would make PTSI an eligible claim by amending the Worker’s Compensation Act. If enacted, Pennsylvania would be the 26th state to provide workers’ compensation benefits to first responders suffering from PTSI.

The bill’s other co-prime sponsors are state Reps. Jared Solomon, D-Phila.; Mark Gillen, R-Berks; Tarik Khan, D-Phila.; Greg Scott, D-Montgomery; Tim Brennan, D-Bucks; and Jim Rigby, R-Cambria/Somerset.

House Bill 1632 now awaits a full House vote.