Most people in the workforce experience stress in their own way. But for first responders, the stressors go beyond strict deadlines, ungrateful bosses, and annoying co-workers.
First responders are exposed to traumatic events every day during the course of their jobs. As a result, mental health issues are more common among first responders than individuals in most other professions.
According to a University of Phoenix survey, 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues. Of those surveyed, 27% were diagnosed with depression and 10% were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Nearly 1 in 4 police officers have thought about commiting suicide at some point in their life and, in 2017, an estimated 140 police officers took their own lives.
In an effort to help first responders, Arizona passed the Officer Craig Tiger Act (the “Act”) in 2018. Let’s take a closer look at the Act.
Background of the Officer Craig Tiger Act
On August 3, 2018, the Officer Craig Tiger Act became effective.
The Act is named after Officer Craig Tiger. In 2012, Craig was forced to use deadly force on a man who assaulted Craig, his partner, and members of the general public in a Phoenix park.
Two years after the incident, Craig committed suicide. His death is believed to be the result of undiagnosed and untreated PTSD.
Following Craig’s death, the Arizona Police Association (APA) and the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona worked together to introduce the bill that would become the Officer Craig Tiger Act.
As the APA explained:
“It is our hope that this bill will prevent the tragic loss of other police and firefighters due to the ravages of PTSD.”
Who’s covered by the Act?
The Act applies to peace officers and firefighters who are exposed to any one of the following events during the course of their employment:
- Visually witnessing the death or maiming of one or more human beings (or witnessing the immediate aftermath of such an act)
- Responding to or being directly involved in a criminal investigation of an offense involving a dangerous crime against a child
- Requiring rescue in the line of duty
- Using deadly force or being subjected to deadly force in the line of duty, regardless of whether the peace officer or firefighter was physically injured
- Witnessing the death of another peace officer or firefighter while engaged in the line of duty
- Responding to or being directly involved in an investigation regarding the drowning or near drowning of a child
What does the Act mean for first responders and their employers?
The Act requires that employers provide first responders with 36 licensed counseling visits per incident (paid by the employer) from a licensed mental health professional of the first responder’s choosing.
If the first responder is forced to leave work to attend the counseling sessions, the Act prohibits the employer from requiring the first responder to use their paid vacation, personal leave, or sick leave.
Further, if the mental health professional determines that the first responder isn’t fit for duty while receiving treatment, the employer must pay the first responder for up to 30 days (per incident) beginning once the health professional reaches the determination.
The Act does not prohibit a first responder from filing a workers’ compensation claim.
What does the Act require of the state?
One of the goals of the Act is to learn more about the mental health issues facing first responders. Because of this, the Act requires the state of Arizona to keep certain statistics concerning PTSD claims from first responders.
These statistics must be submitted annually to a host of individuals, including the governor, the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the chairperson of the senate health and human services committee.
If you’re a first responder experiencing a mental health issue as a result of an on-the-job experience, consider using our free attorney directory to get in touch with an attorney and learn more about your rights under the Act.