Law enforcement officers and firefighters can now receive compensation for career-related psychological injuries, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Tuesday the Trauma Treatment Act introduced by state Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park.
Senate Bill 542 aims to improve access to mental health services for firefighters and peace officers by creating a rebuttable presumption that a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is occupational and “therefore covered by the workers’ compensation system,” according to the bill analysis.
“Every day, we ask firefighters and law enforcement officers to run into flames and gunfire — but too often, when the weight of these traumas becomes too much for these heroes to bear, we turn a blind eye to their struggles,” said Stern in a statement. “Our nation has lost more public safety officers to suicide than in the line of duty — when just one life cut short is itself too many. Today, California is making clear that post-traumatic stress is not a disorder to be stigmatized. These injuries can be healed.”
Previously, people injured at work would qualify for workers’ compensation if the mental disorder caused disability or needed treatment, as well as demonstrated “by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were a substantial cause (or 35% to 40%) of the injury,” the analysis read.
Several legislators signed on as coauthors of SB 542, including Assembly members Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.