JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers in Missouri's Capitol said Tuesday that law enforcement officials should get insurance coverage for mental disorders and delayed health diseases contracted on the job that eventually lead to death.
The Senate Small Business, Insurance, and Industry Committee heard a bill on Tuesday that would include psychological disorders in police officers' workers' compensation package if the disorder was caused by on-the-job events.
Mark Bruns, a lobbyist for the St. Louis Police Officers' Association said firefighters began receiving coverage for physiological disorders in the 1980s after a hotel structural collapse in Kansas City, Mo. In July 1981, walkways collapsed in the Hyatt Regency hotel. The collapse resulted in 114 people dead and 216 others injured.
Bruns said he wants law enforcement officers to have the same coverage as firefighters when it comes to psychological disorders.
"If you look at the shootings of Newtown or the bombing of Boston or even the Joplin tornado then you know that police officers have to go through some pretty gruesome things," Bruns said.
Committee chairman Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, was the Polk County sheriff before he became a state representative in 2004 and he said he could relate to some of the trauma officers go through.
"There is certain things that you see in that business,whether you like it or not, you'll never disregard that memory," Parson said.
Two organizations spoke in opposition of the bill at Tuesday's Senate hearing.
Todd Smith, a lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Counties, said some local governments are concerned by the costs associated with this proposed workers' compensation expansion. He said he there are also concerns with the part of the bill about work-related illnesses or injuries that lead to death.
The bill would also expand work-related delayed health illnesses that lead to death, to include when public safety employees are traveling to and from work and when they are on meal breaks.
Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Charles, is a firefighter and paramedic and he said that firefighters breaks get interrupted if there is an emergency.
"Even if we're eating lunch or if we're eating dinner, if the alarm goes off we have to respond," Hinson, bill supporter, said.
The bill would also allow public safety workers with delayed illness that lead to death up to six years from the date the work-related injury or illness occurred to be identified as individuals who were killed in the line of duty. Under current law, families of workers killed from an injury or illness that happened while on duty, receive $25,000 if they file a claim within one year of the worker's death.
Sponsoring Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, said she didn't know why the bill had been changed to include the six-year limit and said it did seem like a long time to her.
Hinson, said the six-year time limit was added to the bill to follow federal compensation laws that say a work-related death can be compensated up to 300 weeks after the incident.
Hinson said there has been one case in Missouri and several others around the U.S. where public safety employees die from a work-related illness several years after they received the injury or illness.
"Firefighters and first responders, they may get an inhalation injury and it not affect their respiratory system until four, five, six years later," Hinson said.
The Missouri House passed the bill last week in a 154-0 vote. The Senate committee must now vote on the bill and if it passes there then it moves to the full Senate floor.