Police, Fire Fighters, and Corrections Officers Announce New Legislation to Ensure Public Safety Personnel Access to PTSD/PTSI Treatment

Former Fire Fighter and Police Officer rides his motorcycle from Seattle to Las Vegas for PTSD

Portland, OR – First responders are particularly vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the amount of consistent first-hand exposure to extremely stressful and traumatic experiences. As we understand more about the mental health impact and how PTSD and Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) is becoming an epidemic in first responder professions, State Representatives Andrea Salinas and Paul Evans joined public safety officers today to announce the introduction of new legislation recognizing PTSD/PTSI as an occupational illness in Oregon. The bill helps protect our public servants who put themselves on the front lines for our communities every day.

“Given ongoing budget constraints and increased pressure on fewer responders, we must recognize the costs we are incurring in the lives of those we send out to defend us,” said Rep. Evans, “It’s the right thing to do.”

PTSD Awareness Jeff ShepardTo commemorate the announcement, retired police officer and fire fighter Jeff Shepard made a stop in Portland on his West Coast Ride 4 Relief Tour to bring awareness to first responders living with PTSD/PTSI. Shephard was diagnosed with PTSD after an ambush shooting in his police patrol car. He underwent therapy, returned to work, and realized his life-long dream of becoming a motor officer. But within the first year of Shepard’s career on a motorcycle, he was the target of an explosion that turned his life upside down. He quickly discovered there was little support or information for officers specifically struggling with what felt like the shame of PTSD and he was medically retired from his department.

Shepard said, “I recognized there was an epidemic of first responders dealing with the same thing I was.” This inspired Shepard’s fierce advocacy and the Ride 4 Relief, providing an opportunity for conversation to bring people together in support of those who sacrifice so much for our safety.

PTSD Awareness Jeff Shepard

Groups representing police officers (Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs-ORCOPS), fire fighters (Oregon State Fire Fighters Council-OSFFC), and corrections officers (Association of Oregon Corrections Employees-AOCE) worked together to craft legislation that makes a very simple change to the state statute. Currently, there is a very high bar that our public servants face when having to prove the cumulative trauma of stress disorders such as PTSI. Instead of these employees having to prove that their trauma-stress related disorders are employment-related, the employer would be required to prove that they are not.

“There is a stigma attached to PTSD and officers may be reluctant to seek treatment or file a claim because it’s incredibly difficult to prove that it’s employment-related. This legislation helps remove that stigma and supports better mental health,” said Daryl Turner, President of ORCOPS and the Portland Police Association.

The PTSD/PTSI presumption legislation strengthens our support of police, fire fighters, and corrections officers in several ways, including:

  • Recognizing the mental health impact and trauma that first responders experience while on the front line of public safety and emergency response.
  • Promoting ongoing wellness among fire fighters, corrections employees, and law enforcement officers by showing that legitimate claims will be honored.
  • Assisting with recruitment and hiring, when employers can better assure new employees that job-related conditions will not subject them to an adversarial legal process.

“Each lawmaker we have approached recognizes that access to mental health treatment for our public safety servants is paramount to a safe Oregon and have pledged their unwavering support of this concept,” said Karl Koenig, President of OSFFC.

The PTSD/PTSI presumption legislation helps police, fire fighters, and corrections officers get the help they need after a job-related trauma.

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The Oregon Coalition of Police & Sheriffs (ORCOPS) is a non-partisan organization that advocates on behalf of police officers, deputy sheriffs and other individuals in Oregon law enforcement agencies. ORCOPS serves as a source of leadership within the law enforcement community and aims to build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve.

Contact: Daryl Turner, President
Angela Orr, Communications
Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs
503.225.9760
info@orcops.org   

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In Preparation for the 2018 General Election and the 2019 Legislative Session

Even though the Oregon Legislature is not in session, ORCOPS is still working to ensure policymakers hear our voice and understand what matters to us.
We’ve just sent out the next round of questionnaires for state legislative candidates seeking ORCOPS’ endorsement for the 2018 General Election. We’ll be carefully reviewing each questionnaire and making endorsements based on each candidate’s answers. We also consider whether a candidate has been a consistent champion for law enforcement. It’s important that candidates know when they have our back, we have theirs.
ORCOPS is also participating in a legislative workgroup, which is considering the issue of officer wellness. This group sprung from efforts by Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland) to require mental health sessions for officers during the 2018 session. ORCOPS convinced legislators that mandatory sessions were not reasonable or practical for assisting officers. The workgroup was formed in the interim to determine the best course forward to ensure all first responders, not just police officers, have access to voluntary mental health wellness and support. Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) is also participating in the workgroup. ORCOPS has been instrumental in this workgroup, moving the discussion away from mandatory sessions and instead toward requiring broader health care options and workers compensation protections for all emergency personnel.
To that end, ORCOPS is working to have a PTSD presumption placed into Oregon’s Worker Compensation policies. Currently, if a first responder is experiencing symptoms and receives a diagnosis for PTSD, the worker’s compensation system denies most of those claims. It can be very difficult to definitively prove that PTSD happened while on duty. ORCOPS has been demonstrating to the workgroup and to other stakeholders that this often keeps first responders from being able to seek proper treatment. It is our hope that this effort will soon lead to the policy change we seek.
We will continue to work in preparation for the 2018 General Election and the 2019 Legislative Session. We are proud to represent Oregon’s rank-and-file law enforcement professionals and the work you do every day to keep Oregonians safe.
Daryl Turner, President
Oregon Coalition of Police & Sheriffs

2018 Legislative Session Report

LEGISLATIVE WRAP UP

The ORCOPS lobby team saw some 2018 Legislative Session successes and laid the foundation for the long 2019 Legislative Session. We continued to build support with legislators for policies that matter to our members.  But there are challenges ahead and still plenty of work to do.

House Bill 4056

Families of fallen officers in Oregon are supposed to have scholarship funds available to college eligible students. But an inconsistency between the rules for the Public Safety Memorial Fund, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and federal benefits some families of fallen officers were missing out on assistance for higher education. HB 4056 corrects this gap. The ORCOPS lobby team worked closely with Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), who introduced the legislation. As the bill went to committee, we visited each member multiple times to answer questions and provide clarification. The bill had strong support in the House Judiciary Committee and ultimately sailed through both chambers.  It’s now on the Governor’s desk, where she is expected to sign it.

Senate Bill 1562

This bill was introduced by State Senator Kathleen Taylor (D-Milwaukie), It increases the penalties for the crime of strangulation. ORCOPS submitted a letter of support for this bill. It passed easily through the Senate and the House, and is now on the Governor’s desk where she is expected to sign it.

House Bill 4122

This bill corrects an oversight and allows a group of officers at OHSU the opportunity to join the Public Employees Retirement System. Right before session ended, it was on a good trajectory, having left the House Committee on Business and Labor went to  the Committee on Ways & Means. Our team conducted multiple one-on-one conversations with Ways & Means committee members and we had created a good deal of support for the bill. OHSU was also in full support. However, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) chose to end the Legislative Session a week ahead of the previously-established calendar, eliminating the possibility of passing a number of bills still in Ways & Means, including HB 4122.  We had some good conversations with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) who has expressed interest in pushing the bill in the 2019 session.

Senate Bill 1531

This bill was introduced by Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland), which originally would have imposed a mandate for police officers to get mental health counseling every two years. ORCOPS strongly opposed the mandatory provisions in the bill. The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene). Senator Prozanski opted not to move the bill out of committee, which meant the bill stalled out during session. In lieu of the bill’s passage, ORCOPS has been working with Senator Prozanski’s office on creating a workgroup that will meet during the legislative interim. We anticipate the workgroup will develop an alternate proposal for the 2019 session that focuses on voluntary access to wellness programs for a wide range of first responders, and possibly include improvements in workers compensation protections.

On the horizon, we’re expecting a landmark ruling later this year from the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME. The Court is widely expected to rule that labor organizations cannot require fair share dues payments from non-members. ORCOPS has had some constructive discussions with lawmakers and Legislative attorneys. We’re looking for ways to best protect fair share payments after the U.S. Supreme Court delivers its ruling. We are working with stakeholders to prepare legislation that would protect members from having to use their resources to support “free riders” who opt not to contribute to the costs of negotiating or enforcing a labor agreement. We plan to begin discussions on this concept as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court unveils its opinion.

Finally, we are sad to report that Representative Andy Olson has decided to retire from the Oregon Legislature. Rep Olson has long been a friend to law enforcement and a key ally in the House. We wish him well in his retirement.

Thank you for your continued support. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or legislative concepts.

Daryl Turner, President
Oregon Coalition of Police & Sheriffs

Bills We Are Watching

ORCOPS Legislative Updates (1)

Last week was the deadline for bills to move out of committee. We’re now waiting for a number of bills we’re tracking to percolate through to the other chamber. Committee hearings should begin later this week or the beginning of next week.

Bills we’re watching:

House Bill 4122

This bill corrects an oversight and allows a group of officers at OHSU the opportunity to join the Public Employees Retirement System. It has left the House Committee on Business and Labor and is now in Ways & Means. We’ve begun one-on-one meetings with the Ways & Means Committee members and staff. Our conversations have included the fact that the bill has a minimal fiscal impact and is a matter of basic fairness. OHSU is in full support of the bill as well. So far, we’ve had excellent conversations with committee members, and we expect that to continue. No hearing has yet been set in Ways & Means.

House Bill 4056

Due to inconsistencies between the rules for the Public Safety Memorial Fund, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and federal benefits, some families of fallen officers are missing out on assistance for higher education. This bill corrects that gap. The bill is in the House of Representatives, waiting on a vote. We expect it to pass the House floor today, Wednesday, February 21, and move to the Senate side.

Senate Bill 1562

Introduced by State Senator Kathleen Taylor (D-Milwaukie), Senate Bill 1562 increases the penalties for the crime of strangulation. ORCOPS submitted a letter of support for this bill and passed the Senate this morning 28-0.

We will continue to provide updates during this short Legislative Session.

2018 Legislative Session is Underway

The 2018 Legislative Session began on Monday, February 5 and is now is well underway. It’s only a five week session, which means the work is moving at an incredibly quick pace. As always, the ORCOPS team did a great deal of preparation work before session began, laying the groundwork to do everything possible to benefit our members. We’ve also situated ourselves as the “go-to” resource when legislators want to know how public policy changes may affect the working conditions for Oregon’s law enforcement officers.

Here’s what we’ve been working on so far:

House Bill 4122

This bill was submitted on behalf of ORCOPS, and is one of our highest priorities in the session. The bill would correct an oversight and allow a group of officers at OHSU the opportunity to join the Public Employees Retirement System. We worked closely with Representative Jeff Barker (D-Beaverton) and Representative Chris Gorsek (D-Gresham) who stood alongside us as we presented the bill to the House Committee on Business and Labor. The bill passed out of the committee with a unanimous vote and a “do pass” recommendation. It’s now headed to House Ways and Means Committee. The bill has been assigned a “minimal” fiscal impact, which means its effect on the state budget is negligible, and the committee is more likely pass it through to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

House Bill 4056

We’re working this bill to correct a gap in benefits for families of fallen or disabled officers. Because of inconsistencies between the rules for the Public Safety Memorial Fund, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and federal benefits, some families are missing out on assistance for higher education. Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) introduced this bill and have been working with families of fallen officers to make sure these oversights are fixed. Representative Jeff Barker is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee where the bill is being heard and has made this a priority.  A bipartisan remedy is in the works to close the gap, and ensure all families of fallen or disabled officers get what they need to send their children to college.

Senate Bill 1531

This bill was introduced by Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland), which originally would have imposed a mandate for police officers to get mental health counseling every two years. ORCOPS has strongly opposed the mandatory provision in the bill. The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene). Senator Prozanski opted not to move the bill out of committee, so it’s not likely to pass this session. ORCOPS has been working with Senator Frederick’s office and talking with the Senate Judiciary Committee members on something for the 2019 session that would allow first responders voluntary access to wellness programs alongside an increase in benefits and improved workers compensation provisions.

Behind the scenes, the lobby team continues to have good conversations with staff and legislators about the priorities for ORCOPS.

SB 1531

Senate Bill 1531

This bill was introduced by Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland), which originally would have imposed a mandate for police officers to get mental health counseling every two years. ORCOPS has strongly opposed the mandatory provision in the bill. The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene). Senator Prozanski opted not to move the bill out of committee, so it’s not likely to pass this session. ORCOPS has been working with Senator Frederick’s office and talking with the Senate Judiciary Committee members on something for the 2019 session that would allow first responders voluntary access to wellness programs alongside an increase in benefits and improved workers compensation provisions.

HB 4056

House Bill 4056

UPDATE: February 21, 2018

Due to inconsistencies between the rules for the Public Safety Memorial Fund, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and federal benefits, some families of fallen officers are missing out on assistance for higher education. This bill corrects that gap. The bill is in the House of Representatives, waiting on a vote. We expect it to pass the House floor today, Wednesday, February 21, and move to the Senate side.

February 14, 2018

We’re working this bill to correct a gap in benefits for families of fallen or disabled officers. Because of inconsistencies between the rules for the Public Safety Memorial Fund, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and federal benefits, some families are missing out on assistance for higher education. Representative Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) introduced this bill and have been working with families of fallen officers to make sure these oversights are fixed. Representative Jeff Barker is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee where the bill is being heard and has made this a priority.  A bipartisan remedy is in the works to close the gap, and ensure all families of fallen or disabled officers get what they need to send their children to college.

HB 4122

House Bill 4122

UPDATE: February 21, 2018

This bill corrects an oversight and allows a group of officers at OHSU the opportunity to join the Public Employees Retirement System. It has left the House Committee on Business and Labor and is now in Ways & Means. We’ve begun one-on-one meetings with the Ways & Means Committee members and staff. Our conversations have included the fact that the bill has a minimal fiscal impact and is a matter of basic fairness.  OHSU is in full support of the bill as well. So far, we’ve had excellent conversations with committee members, and we expect that to continue. No hearing has yet been set in Ways & Means

February 14, 2018

This bill was submitted on behalf of ORCOPS, and is one of our highest priorities in the session. The bill would correct an oversight and allow a group of officers at OHSU the opportunity to join the Public Employees Retirement System. We worked closely with Representative Jeff Barker (D-Beaverton) and Representative Chris Gorsek (D-Gresham) who stood alongside us as we presented the bill to the House Committee on Business and Labor. The bill passed out of the committee with a unanimous vote and a “do pass” recommendation. It’s now headed to House Ways and Means Committee. The bill has been assigned a “minimal” fiscal impact, which means its effect on the state budget is negligible, and the committee is more likely pass it through to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

Nearing the Home Stretch

The past week in Salem was relatively uneventful, but as it may be the second- or third-to-last week in session, every hour counts.

The “Grand Jury recording” bills, SB 496 and SB 505, are still in the Ways & Means Committee and have not yet been assigned to a subcommittee. ORCOPS’ lobbyists had been readying for a fight in the Public Safety Subcommittee, but this late in session the measures are likely to go instead to the politically powerful Capital Construction Subcommittee (which, despite the name, can hear any bill). We’ve been speaking with Ways & Means members to discuss the bills and their fiscal impact, especially as pertains to the release of public employee transcripts. Although no official fiscal impact statement has been released, sources say it will be around $10 million, so we are doing everything we can to push the message that this money could be much better spent elsewhere. Lately, our sources have stated that the Committee may forgo dipping into the State budget in favor of foisting those costs onto local governments — which would have an even more direct impact on local law enforcement budgets! We’ve been coordinating with the District Attorneys, who are similarly opposed. We’re also getting the message out to the cities and counties that $10 million could be better spent on programs and projects they are actually asking for. We’ve been helped by a great Op-Ed from Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis that appeared in The Oregonian earlier this week.

Senate Bill 712, which provides hours of service credit for vesting purposes and retirement credit to members who receive worker’s compensation disability payments and subsequently are reemployed by any participating public employer, passed out of Ways & Means with a “do-pass” recommendation. ORCOPS has supported this bill from its first hearing and we’ve consistently touched in with legislators to make sure they understand how important a bill like this is for our members.

As you may have recently read in The Oregonian, it appears that both significant revenue discussions as well as regressive PERS “reforms” are off the table in Salem … at least for now. The idea of trading benefit-cutting PERS “reforms” for a new statewide corporate tax increase was gestated prior to session. But now it seems that those conversations have stalled out with Republicans seemingly unwilling to budge on revenue, and the Democrats holding the line on PERS. In lieu of a proposed tax increase worth $890 million this biennium (which would have required a three-fifths “supermajority” that included Republican support), the Legislature is now looking at instead rolling back $200 million worth of business tax breaks from 2013 (eliminating tax cuts generally does not require a supermajority, although there is disagreement on this particular proposal). But without the need for Republican support on a tax proposal, Democratic leadership is unwilling to focus on PERS “reforms.” Although there is a short legislative session in February of 2018, it appears that both sides of the aisle intent to mothball these discussions—at least in a practical sense—until 2019.

Over the past few months, ORCOPS has met with dozens of legislators in both chambers and of both political persuasions to talk about the various proposals that have been floated. As the only member of the “PERS Coalition” that represents local law enforcement, ORCOPS made headway on both sides of the aisle. We’ve discussed how the “reform” ideas that have been floated not only consistently risk endangering our ability to attract and retain officers, but unfairly pushes a lot of additional financial burden on newer officers. We have also continued to push and testify to the principle that “a deal is a deal,” and when coming from the representatives for members of their local law enforcement, this has gone over well. This was especially helpful with Rep. Buehler (R – Bend) and Sen. Knopp (R – Bend), when discussing how PERS “reforms” would affect the members of Bend Police Department, who have recently joined our coalition. They both expressed their desire to better connect with their local law enforcement in the interim. ORCOPS discussed ways that PERS liabilities could be cut (by $3 billion or more) through more efficient management practices that won’t affect benefits.

To be clear, although at the moment PERS “reform” seems to be off the table, there are still 17 days left in the session and we will stay vigilant of any new developments. Just because all deals are off the table today, doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a last-minute bargain that we need to address in short order. For now, we will continue to work on taking the Grand Jury recordation bill off the table, run traps on any chance of PERS “reform” or other bad bills resurrecting, and watch for any last-minute amendments that would impact ORCOPS.