CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill is heading to the full House of Delegates that would provide first responders in West Virginia an opportunity to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler, spent 20 years in law enforcement. He spoke in the favor of the bill during Monday morning’s House Judiciary Committee meeting. Kelly said Monday’s discussion “pulled” at him.
“When I wore a uniform we couldn’t get help. We had to find other ways to fight our demons,” Kelly said. “I learned to self-medicate just to try and forget the things I was seeing.”
Kelly said even today, years later, the smallest thing can bring back those traumatic scenes to his mind.
“It can be a smell. It can be a word. Shoot, it could be something you see on television that triggers this. I think it’s time we do something,” he said.
The committee passed a similar bill last year but it didn’t make it through the process. HB 2321, approved by the committee Monday, now heads to the full House for consideration.
Kelly called for a unanimous vote from the committee and he received it on a voice vote.
“We need to do whatever it takes to make sure they at least have the ability to seek help, without having to feel shame or embarrassment, without having to feel like someone is going to redicule them for being weak, we really need to stand up and go to bat for our state’s first responders,” Kelly said.