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Supporters urge lawmakers to take PTSD bill before session runs out

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Thursday Hearing

MADISON (WKOW) -- Across the country, first responders are facing a mental health crisis.

A recent study showed nationwide, in 2017 103 firefighters died by suicide while 93 died in the line of duty.

There's a similar trend for police officers with 140 officers taking their own lives and 129 dying on the job.

A bill in the Wisconsin State Legislature is looking to try and fix that.

The bill would allow first responders to receive workers' compensation benefits because of a PTSD diagnosis.

Right now, workers' compensation benefits are only granted if there's an incident bigger than the day-to-day mental stresses.

This bill would do away with that requirement, but would also require PTSD to be diagnosed by a mental health professional before the officer or firefighter would receive benefits.

The bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate. After a public hearing Thursday in the Assembly, it's well on its way to a vote.

Today police and fire chiefs along with Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney all shared impassioned stories urging lawmakers to pass this bill.

Many other states have already passed this legislation and their floodgates haven't opened with fraud and other issues.

The committee on criminal justice and public safety has not yet voted on this bill but has support from both sides of the aisle.

The Senate version of this bill has passed out of its committee and is waiting to have a final vote scheduled in front of the whole senate chambers.

Even though the bill is bipartisan and has overwhelming support, the biggest concern the chiefs and sheriff voiced is the time-frame to pass it, as lawmakers plan to wrap up their legislative session within the next two months.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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