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Firefighters combat PTSD; seek legislation - KOAM TV 7

Firefighters combat PTSD; seek legislation

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Firefighters maintain some of the more jarring and emotionally-scarring jobs in society and the haunting, graphic scenes they deal with often come home with them.

New research shows that responding to traumatic calls like pulling a child from a mangled automobile, to extinguishing  a house fire with multiple victims has an impact on firefighters and paramedics and is causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at rates similar to those found in combat veterans according to a new report.

"We're suffering at an alarming rate. In Joplin alone, we've had several individuals that are dealing with PTSD and all the other negative things that go on," Joplin Fire's Adam Grimes said.

Grimes is attending the International Association of Fire Fighter Convention in Las Vegas, where professional firefighters are learning how to approach legislators to make a difference in combating PTSD.

"We need everyone to come together and recognize this is a real issue, and firefighters are there in the community to protect you on your worst day. We need you to be there to protect us on ours. We don't care about any of the other issues in the world on that day, we care about you. When it's time for us to go back to the stations, we need the community to know that we too have problems. We're human," Grimes said.
 

Missouri State Representative Charlie Davis chairs the veterans committee, so he's no stranger to helping others cope with PTSD.

"Some of the legislation we need to look at, number one: we need to make sure insurance companies take care of those individuals. That kind of injury, even though it's a psychological injury, it is an injury and if it happens on the job, we need to make sure the insurance will take care of them. Not only to heal the body, but also to heal the mind," Davis said.

Davis noted that a level of awareness is necessary to know how to help an individual cope with PTSD, whether that means having psychological staff on hand or ensuring that supervisors are aware of what the individual is dealing with.

"Currently the department is working on training programs and gaining access to programs to help our members," Grimes said.

The IAFF is also using the convention to shed light on firefighter's exposure to deadly toxins in fires and other hazardous emergencies; causing cancer in firefighters at a rate higher than most Americans.

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