Some Connecticut lawmakers have resurrected a proposal from last year to expand the state’s workers’ compensation law to cover employees who’ve suffered an emotional or mental impairment after witnessing a traumatic death or maiming while on the job.
Similar legislation was proposed during the 2013 General Assembly session in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. But lawmakers, instead, created a special, private charitable fund to help cover unreimbursed mental health-related costs of only the workers affected by the shooting.
During a hearing Tuesday before the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, Sprague Sen. Cathy Osten, the panel’s co-chair, said the fund has raised less than $400,000 as of Jan. 31, which she contends falls short of what is needed.
“As a state and as a country, we continue to ignore stress-related disorders to our peril,” Osten said.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities urged lawmakers to reject the bill, saying it would significantly impose new costs on cities and towns. CCM said the bill would allow any municipal employee, such as a paramedic or public works crew member, whether on-duty or not, to arrive at a crime scene several hours after a scene was secured and be eligible for full wage replacement benefits under the worker’s compensation system.
“The administrative and legal costs just to manage the claims filed for this new mandate – let alone fully fund such benefits – could be catastrophic for many communities,” CCM said in written testimony submitted to the legislative committee.
Osten, who is also a first selectman, said changes were made to last year’s bill to address CCM’s concerns. For example, she said, the worker must be diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. She said the time frame for viewing a traumatic death or maiming was also limited.
The bill awaits committee action.
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