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Minutes for SB491 - Committee on Commerce

Short Title

Permitting workers compensation benefits for first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Minutes Content for Mon, Feb 21, 2022

Chair Erickson opened the hearing on SB 491.

Staff provided an overview of the bill. (Attachment 5)

Proponents:

Scott Kirkpatrick, Kansas State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, spoke in favor of the bill. (Attachment 6) The bill intends to provide much needed mental health benefits to first responders who are experiencing mental health issues related to their jobs. Currently under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act, first responders who are experiencing mental health issues that are job related, are not covered by workers compensation unless the incident that caused the mental health issue was related to a corresponding physical injury.

Sheriff Jay Armbrister, Kansas Sheriffs Association, spoke in favor of the bill. (Attachment 7) Sheriff Armbrister shared with the committee his personal and professional experiences.

Chief Darrell Atteberry, Legislative Chair, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, appeared in favor of the bill. (Attachment 8) Moving the bill forward will be a show of support of Kansas law enforcement and asking for consideration regarding the impacts, most often un-observable, that many in their profession experience.

Angie Jones, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, spoke in favor of the bill. (Attachment 9) Ms. Jones also severs as the Wellness Coordinator of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the President of the First Responder Support Team for the Midwest. The bill would allow first responders who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to utilize workman's compensation to receive treatment for the diagnosis.

Ed Klumpp, Legislative Liaison, Kansas Peace Officers' Association, appeared in support of the bill. (Attachment 10) Mr. Klumpp spoke to different sections of the bill.

Kent Vosburg, EMS Chief for the Junction City Fire Department, spoke in favor of the people. (Attachment 11) The bill is about giving hope, so that EMS officers know that no matter what horror they have been exposed to, that they have a way through it.

Written testimony in support of the bill:

Robert S.Wing, retired Captain in the Fire Department of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. (Attachment 12)

Jeff King, Workers' Compensation Direction, Kansas Department of Labor. (Attachment 13)

Kansas Trial Lawyers association - Phillip Slape and Jon Voegeli, Slape & Howard, Chartered, Wichita (Attachment 14)

Kevin Flory, President, Kansas State Firefighters Association, Inc. (Attachment 15)

David Johnston, President Kansas Emergency Medical services Association (Attachment 16)

David Adams, EMS Director at Riley County (Attachment 17)

Brandon Beck, Service Director for the Lyon County City of Emporia Ambulance Service, and Interim Fire Chief for the City of Emporia (Attachment 18)

Neutral:

Emily Nichols, Kansas APCO, appeared neutral on the bill. (Attachment 19) 911 supports PTSD legislation, but are neutral because Public Safety Telecommunications are not included in the bill.

Elliot Linke, Director Ford County Emergency Communicates, appeared neutral on the bill. (Attachment 20) Ms. Linke stated that they would support this important legislation but respectfully request that all emergency response professionals would be included.

Opponents:

Dina Cox on behalf of Kansas Society for Human Resource Management (KS SHRM) spoke in opposition to the bill. (Attachment 21) KSSHRM believes that this proposed legislation will start to open up the doors for employees of all industries who seldom experience PTSD. The cost of workers' compensation coverage will increase significantly for all employers under the possibility of a claim. KSSHRM suggests that there are other ways to address first responders needs, Ohio Police & Fire Pension Funded is an example of one way to address this need without revising Workers' Compensation statutes. Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund PTS Fund Report

Eric Stafford, Vice President of Government Affairs, Kansas Chamber and Dan Murray, Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business,provided testimony in opposition to the bill. (Attachment 22) Placing mental health treatment under workers compensation, instead of health insurance will, without a doubt, result in more litigation and claims, driving up worker compensation premiums.

Written testimony in opposition to the bill was provided by:

Tony Anderson, Kansas Self-Insurers Association (Attachment 23)

Chair Erickson closed the hearing on SB 491.