CLEVELAND — The Ohio House of Representative are in the midst of battle to move House Bill 308 forward, a measure providing access to mental healthcare service to first responders across the state.
Rep. Tom Patton, (R) District 7-Strongsville, told News 5 the bill would require the Bureau of Worker's Compensation to provide benefits for up to one year to a peace officer, firefighter, or EMS worker who is diagnosed with PTSD, even if there is no accompanying physical injury.
Patton said it's a benefit the house has been working on for some nine years and is long overdue as suicide becomes a greater issue among Ohio first responders.
"Are we going to put a price tag on the safety and mental health of our first responders," Patton said.
"These are the people that run into buildings and chase after bad guys."
Mark Barrett, Vice President with the Cleveland Association of Rescue Employees, told News 5 that providing mental healthcare benefits is critical.
Barrett, and CARE Local 1975, are currently in a legal battle with the CIty of Cleveland, trying get the Jackson administration to honor a contract that would give 260 paramedics, EMT's and dispatchers better access to mental healthcare resources.
The case is now heading to the court of appeals.
“Suicide deaths among first responders are almost double that of line of duty deaths and that’s disgusting,” Barrett said.
“Too many first responders are losing their lives to suicide as a result of mental health injuries.”
Patton said the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is not in support of H.B. 308 because of concerns over the potential for growing costs for coverage.
He is hoping to have the measure out of committee in early Feb. and up for a full house vote within the next month.