C4 Members Help Pass Post Traumatic Stress Injury Bill

Fueled by the efforts of Council 4 members and staff, the state legislature voted to extend limited post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) coverage under workers compensation to correctional employees, EMS workers, public safety dispatchers and health workers.

The bill, SB 660, has been sent to the governor’s desk for his signature.

SB 660 builds on the momentum achieved two years ago with the enactment in 2019 of Public Act 19-17, which provides up to 52 weeks of PTSI coverage for police officers, fire fighters and parole officers who experience one of six qualifying events. 

The General Assembly’s Labor Committee originally raised a bill to expand PTSI coverage in February 2020, but that effort but stalled due to the impact of COVID-19 on legislative proceedings. The Committee raised several related bills again this year and held hearings via zoom.

Those supporting the initiative included Kara Dewaine, whose father Jeremie, a state correction officer and member of Local 1565, committed suicide in February 2019. She spoke in favor of SB 666, which eventually was incorporated into SB 660.

“My father endured incredible hardships during his time as a correctional officer. Witnessing humans at their worst every day. Suicides, death, assaults. The constant urgent feeling of having to look  over your shoulder, be aware of your surroundings at all times and worry about protecting yourself from danger at any given moment. These things were forever imprinted in his brain,” Dewaine told committee members back in February.

“Had there been resources, or outlets made available to him throughout his career, our story may have ended differently,” she added. “Please consider this bill, in order to potentially save other families lives. And so that our correctional officers do not have to suffer in silence any longer.”

Jo Samataro of Local 610, a state public safety dispatcher who works for Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, also testified in support of expanding PTSI coverage during a public hearing for SB 666.

“Suicides, domestic violence calls, vehicle accidents and overdose are our callers’ worst nightmare. Dispatchers spend their careers talking to people who are having the worst day of their lives. There is not even the opportunity to process what we just heard, we must move on to the next call,” Samataro, a union steward and 31-year veteran of state and municipal dispatching, testified.

“Dispatchers are like electricity,” she continued,  “No one gives us a second thought until something goes wrong, and we are not functioning properly. Currently dispatchers have no social insurance safety net. PTSI affects job performance. It leads to increased errors—and no one wants their dispatchers to have increased errors.”

These messages clearly impacted legislators. The House of Represented voted 141-0 (with 10 abstentions) in favor of SB 660; the Senate vote was 35-1 (with one abstention).

Click here for media coverage on the passage of SB 660.