Sheriff requests county look at PTSD insurance for officers
Williamson Daily News (WV)
WILLIAMSON — Mingo County Sheriff Joe Smith recently came before the commission to discuss a difficult topic — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in police officers.
More specifically, Smith asked commissioners about re-examining health insurance offerings for county employees to make sure PTSD treatment is included.
"We've got some bills coming from officer-involved shootings," Smith said. "I've got three officers who have been involved in shootings in the last four months. Before I let them come back to work they have to be cleared. We set them up for a psych evaluation. A couple of officers have sought treatment after that, and I think we're getting bills, and I don't think their insurance has paid that."
Smith said he has had three officer-involved shootings on crime scenes in the past four months, and that his concern is the well-being of his deputies. He said any deputy who encounters trauma of any kind on the job should not have to pay out-of-pocket for seeking mental health services.
"All of the officers are back to work," Smith said. "They came back to work just days after the incidents took place. They were all cleared to come back to work, but if they want to seek treatment afterward and talk to somebody once a month or so. It's real. We see things on a daily basis that normal people don't see. Not even with a shooting, but if you come up on a wreck and you've got a small child that's dead you need to talk to somebody about that."
As it stands now, county officials said they believe PTSD treatment is covered but that there is a co-pay. Due to HIPPA regulations for employee privacy pertaining to medical information, specific details could not be discussed in the open meeting Feb. 2.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tom Ward, providing counsel, said commissioners could consider reimbursements of co-pays for county employees on a case by case basis, so that these instances could be reviewed to ensure there would be no issue in cases where Worker's Compensation is involved.
Commission President Thomas Taylor asked about passed legislation that could allow the county to take out policies for this. Ward also said they have been observing bills proposed in the current legislative session to determine what the county should do. The county's insurance provider will be up for review later this year, and if the county wants to look at full coverage for PTSD this could also be reviewed then.
Ward said he has discussed this with other counties, and that often cost is a factor in their determinations of what to include in the insurance coverage.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it's estimated that 18% to 24% of dispatchers and 35% of police officers suffer from PTSD across the United States.