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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 542. The new law creates a rebuttable presumption that a first responders PTSD struggles are an occupational injury, The new law would apply to injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2020.

The rebuttable presumptions for first responder work-related injuries already included physical ailments such as heart disease, cancer and hernias.

Before Newsom signed SB 542, California’s law limited psychiatric injury compensation to those that could prove the injury was at least 50 percent related to their job.

Section 3212.15 is added to the Labor Code. Under these new provisions, in the case of certain state and local firefighting personnel and peace officers, the term “injury” also includes post-traumatic stress that develops or manifests itself during a period in which the injured person is in the service of the department or unit.  And the law would prohibit compensation from being paid for a claim of injury unless the member has performed services for the department or unit for at least 6 months, unless the injury is caused by a sudden and extraordinary employment condition. The six months of employment need not be continuous.

The injury so developing or manifesting itself in these cases shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence.

This presumption shall be extended to a member following termination of service for a period of 3 calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance, commencing with the last date actually worked in the specified capacity.

Newsom signed the law alongside two other bills that will provide mental health support to firefighters and peace officers. The second new law establishes standards for peer support programs. The third signing prohibits the outsourcing of local emergency dispatch services to for-profit agencies.

AB 1116, the California Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Act by Assemblymember Tim Grayson (D-Concord), establishes statewide standards for first responder peer support programs to provide an agency-wide network of peer representatives available to aid fellow employees on emotional or professional issues.

SB 438 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) will prohibit a public agency from outsourcing its local emergency dispatch services to a private, for-profit entity – except when pursuant to a joint powers or cooperative agreement. It also clarifies that a public safety agency maintains the authority to determine the appropriate deployment of emergency resources within the agency’s jurisdiction in order to provide the highest and best level of emergency response for the community it serves.