House Passes Bill to Offer Mental Health Coverage to First Responders
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation to offer mental health coverage to first responders. Rep. Neil Hays, R-Checotah, filed House Bill 2398, which would offer mental health coverage to first responders through Oklahoma's workers' compensation insurance laws without a physical injury present. Currently, first responders are excluded from coverage unless an underlying physical injury exists. "First responders are an imperative part of our communities, and we owe it to them and their families to protect them," Hays said. "This bill takes an essential step toward ensuring that first responders have access to mental health services. It's time for us to help those who serve us daily." HB2398 would allow a first responder who is deemed unable to temporarily work by a physician to receive 70% of their average weekly pay up to the state average wage or the greater of the weekly benefit provided in an employer's policy. Under HB2398, a first responder who cannot return to work after maximum medical improvement may be given permanent disability benefits. If a first responder is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the employer will provide treatment for up to one year but is not responsible for prescription medication expenses exceeding $10,000. HB2398 passed the House floor 84-5 and now moves to the Senate.