First responders receive PTSD support under new Wisconsin law

Jim Page was in law enforcement for 27 years before retiring in 2016.

Six years prior, the Onalaska police officer shot and injured a man who was charging at him with a knife after a domestic disturbance.

The incident caused post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a condition that Page still lives with every day.

“A lot of people struggle with the things that we see and do,” Page said.

Gov. Tony Evers signed Senate Bill 11 into law Tuesday that will help provide worker’s compensation for first responders such as law enforcement officers and firefighters who suffer from PTSD.

“This bill ensures that they can take care of themselves, get treatment, cope, and get the help they need,”  Evers said.

Page said he’s been lobbying for the law since he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010.

“I was happy,” Page said of the bill.

One reason Page thinks it took so long to put this bill on paper is because first responders are often thought of as tough.

He said, “SB 11 covers firefighters and law enforcement only at this point and those are two groups of guys, people I should say that don’t really like to talk about their feelings much”

Page may not benefit from this bill himself, but knowing others will is satisfying, he said.

“When I was initially diagnosed with PTSD, my wife and I made it our mission to help as many people as we could,” he said.

This is just a foot in the door, said Page, who thinks the next step should be coverage for EMTs and paramedics.

Senate Bill 11 gives firefighters and law enforcement the opportunity to receive up to 32 weeks of compensation, three times within their lifetime if diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.