Letter: Expand help for first responders




As a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of trauma, I was pleased to see your May 14 story “First responders’ selfless service leaves them vulnerable to PTSD’s toll.” This is an important topic.

However, in your discussion of needed reforms to the Washington State Workers’ Compensation system, you omitted an important issue. Currently, the workers’ comp system excludes all therapists with master’s degrees (such as the firefighter/therapist profiled in the story). Because of this exclusion, there are many fewer therapists available for appropriate and timely care.

Medical insurance can’t be used for work-related injuries, so a first responder suffering from work-related PTSD must use the workers’ comp system. Also, a very effective method of treating PTSD, called EMDR (very different from conventional “talk therapy”), requires specialized training and isn’t something all therapists can do. So, for a first responder to find a workers’ comp-participating therapist trained in EMDR is very difficult, and I suspect that many go without this valuable, evidence-based treatment as a result.

Expanding the workers’ compensation system to include master’s-level therapists would greatly alleviate this problem.