In light of the Newtown school massacre, a state lawmaker said Friday that he will propose legislation to expand the circumstances in which emergency responders can receive workers' compensation.
"This is something that I've already discussed," said Rep. Stephen D. Dargan, D-
The idea of expanding the workers' compensation law has been discussed before, with a big concern being the potential cost, Dargan said. "But if you limit the scope of it" to the sort of dire circumstances encountered by police at
For several years, state law has provided workers' compensation benefits to pay for counseling for police officers who are mentally or emotionally impaired by "use of deadly force or subjection to deadly force in the line of duty." Earlier this year, legislators added a similar provision for firefighters who witness the death of another firefighter on duty.
But, as horrible as the
He said there is room for Dargan and fellow legislators to expand eligibility for workers' compensation for first-responders suffering emotionally or mentally after witnessing horrors such as those in Newtown. The extent and duration of such benefits would need to be established by lawmakers, he added.
"We need to protect our first-responders," Dargan said. "That is going to be one of the discussions."
Newtown Police Commissioner Joel T. Faxon, a lawyer, is also pushing to expand the law.
Faxon handled many workers' compensation claims after the deadly 2010 Kleen Energy plant explosion in Middletown.
Faxon said that he plans to raise the issue at the January police commission meeting and that he hopes the commission will pass a resolution asking the legislature to change the law. He said the measure also should be extended to teachers and school personnel.
As many as half a dozen Newtown police officers were the first-responders to the elementary school. When they arrived, the loud blasts of
They found 20 children and six women shot to death.
State Police Col. Daniel Stebbins said he has concerns about all the officers who went into the school, including several state troopers.
"We have a lot of guys who served in Iraq or Afghanistan but this is much different because it involves children and you see what happened to them and you see the faces of their families,'' Stebbins said. "Anybody who went into that building has to be affected. It is worse than anything we have ever experienced."
Stebbins said that counselors have been available since the shooting. Representatives from the
While it is unclear if any of the Newtown police officers would apply for workers' compensation, Faxon said it was important that they at least have the option.