The MMA is monitoring a number of bills that seek to address early and accurate diagnosis of post traumatic stress, proper treatment, access to care, and mental health care delivery for law enforcement officers and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Bills filed by Rep. Paul Brodeur (H. 1701), Rep. Colleen Garry (H. 1714), Rep. Peter Durant (H. 2060), and Sen. Barry Finegold (S. 2164) all would establish a commission to study PTSD and make recommendations, including identifying impediments to accessing programs and treatment, determining the best practices and policies in other states, monitoring research and support activities across the Commonwealth, developing a plan to improve health outcomes, and improving public awareness of post-traumatic stress.

Municipal employers share these goals because they are concerned about employee welfare and because post-traumatic stress often manifests in the workplace. Besides handling symptoms of post-traumatic stress and any ensuing workplace incidents, municipal employers are responsible for managing a wide array of benefits and systems that can be used to address the challenges presented by post-traumatic stress, including the provision of health insurance and employee assistance programs, administration of the state’s injured-on-duty and personnel laws, implementation of modified work schedules, disability retirement, and more.

None of the bills, however, include a municipal seat on a commission. The MMA is lobbying for two seats – one for the MMA and one for the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association – to ensure that cities and towns are appropriately recognized and engaged as essential stakeholders.

Municipal employers should be involved in studying the research and best practices, identifying and resolving impediments to accessing treatment, and developing recommendations that can lead to better outcomes for employees. The MMA argues that a commission cannot be successful without a complete understanding of the municipal perspective and the experience and expertise that municipal employers would bring as stakeholders.

Recognizing the importance of mental wellness and suicide prevention training for law enforcement officers, the MMA is supporting a bill filed by Sen. Michael Moore (S. 1445) that would require the municipal police training commission to develop a mental wellness and suicide prevention training program for its recruit basic training and in-service training curricula. The two-hour course would develop healthy coping skills to manage the stress of policing and training to identify the signs of post-traumatic stress and suicidal behaviors. It would require all sworn members of the Massachusetts State Police, and any officer of an agency certified by the Massachusetts police training committee, including municipal police departments, to complete the training annually. The bill would require payment of regular wages during the training and authorize removal of officers who fail to complete it.

The MMA supports further research into post-traumatic stress and the establishment of a commission to facilitate better outcomes, but strongly opposes bills that would extend accidental disability benefits or injured-on-duty pay via a blanket presumption that deems PTSD to have occurred on the job without evidence of actual causation. Municipal police departments are hiring veterans who may have experienced trauma during service and who may have been discharged without proper support or access to treatment, so it’s important to have an understanding of the origins and nature of the trauma.

The presumption bills would be extremely costly for municipalities and local taxpayers and would increase the unfunded pension and other post-employment benefits liabilities in communities across the state, with a disproportionate impact on small towns.

The bills would also siphon valuable resources from proactive measures and policies that municipalities would prefer to facilitate and that can establish better outcomes for law enforcement officers dealing with post traumatic stress, like early and accurate diagnosis, best practices for treatment and access to care, and mental health care delivery.

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