MANCHESTER —Surrounded by firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers, law enforcement and elected officials, Governor Christopher T. Sununu recently signed Senate Bill 59, relative to post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders and clarifying the firefighter occupational cancer coverage under Workers’ Compensation.
Bill McQuillen, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, issued the following statement:
“New Hampshire’s communities count on firefighters, police officers and paramedics to arrive on scene and deliver the public safety. With last year’s Commission, our partners led by Senator Birdsell began to reduce the stigma around the lingering effects of these scenes. We could not be more proud of this bipartisan effort to move the ball forward for all public safety workers’ mental health and continue to reduce the stigma for the general public.”
Senator Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead represents Hampstead, Derry and Windham in the New Hampshire State Senate. She was an active part of the PTSD Commission and championed its conclusions through the long process of committee hearings and votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senator Birdsell comments,
“Senate Bill 59 ensures that all First Responders as well as Dispatchers know that PTSD is covered under Workers Compensation. The new law also continues the work of the PTSD Commission so the impact of this legislation will continue to be followed to see if any adjustments need to be made, and, if so, that these be done quickly. By signing SB59, Governor Sununu has shown he continues to stand with our First Responders.”
In his remarks, Governor Sununu singled out Senator Birdsell as the leader of the team of many that worked so hard.
Also invited to the bill signing was Representative Mark Pearson who represents Atkinson, Hampstead, Kingston and Plaistow. In addition to serving on the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Commission, he has been a clergyman for forty-four years and is a former volunteer firefighter.
Representative Pearson went to New York and ministered to firefighters after 9/11. Pearson notes. “My time with one particular veteran firefighter still stands out.” His story was not that of the towers coming down, but of an incident thirty years previously.
“It was a tragic event that left him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the culture of the day, he was not free to share his experience with anyone. Had he told his superiors he most likely would have been dismissed from the Fire Department. If he wanted treatment it would have been on his own dime.
“I am so glad emergency service personnel who have witnessed terrible things while keeping us safe can now freely talk out their experiences without stigma, and get the help they need, covered by Workers’ Compensation. If they suffer a broken leg on the job, they’d be taken care of. Now they can be cared for when their souls get broken.”