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New bill helps first responders get workers' comp for PTSD

Senate Bill 542 signed into law Tuesday
Posted at 6:38 PM, Oct 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-02 21:38:34-04

BAKERSFIELD, CA. — Kern County Fire Captain Derek Robinson has seen a lot in his 18 years at the department. But he said the more devastating moments on the job are the one's that stay with him.

"I had seen more infant, toddler, and children deaths than any person should see. I mean you shouldn't even see one and I was at seven or eight," said Robinson.

Those experiences led Robinson to a dark place.

"There was one call that just sent me over the edge. It was an accumulation of those calls, it was too much. I started having nightmares, flashbacks and lack of sleep," said Robinson.

Robinson said he developed post traumatic stress disorder. A mental condition that research shows is all too common among first responders.

"When you step back and study statistics and see that more firefighters are choosing suicide than line of duty deaths, then you know there is a problem," said Robinson.

But a new law aims to change that. Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 542 into law Tuesday.

The legislation includes PTSD as a form of "injury" -- helping California firefighters and first responders qualify for paid time off in order to recover.

"It puts those protections in place that will hopefully give the first responders the courage to overcome that fear of asking for help."