BROOK PARK, Ohio -- More than a decade of responding to traumatic injuries has taken a toll on Brook Park Firefighter Scott Stoltz.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after responding to a motorcycle crash that hit too close to home and reminded him of his best friend, who was killed in a similar crash.
“About seven months ago, I started getting symptoms of nightmares, along with hyper vigilance, paranoia and irritability,” Stoltz said. “I was actually afraid to sleep. I mean, there would be like seven days I might get 10 hours of sleep, just because of the nightmares. It was easier to stay awake and not have to deal with them.”
In March, he went on leave from work and said he undergoes intensive therapy three days per week. But, he's not eligible for workers’ compensation, which would cover lost wages and treatment.
Stoltz said so far, he has spent $2,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs and has used up his vacation days and sick days, with his coworkers pitching in some of their days to help.
“It was just a big letdown that they wouldn't cover that, that they wouldn't see that as an injury or an illness,” he said.
In July, the Ohio Senate stripped a proposal to cover first responders with PTSD from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation budget.
Currently, only first responders who have an accompanying physical injury are eligible.
Senate leadership said the policy should be debated in a separate bill and will be further discussed.
“Amending any type of significant policy issues at the last minute into a budget bill runs the risk of language errors and other inaccuracies that would require more corrective legislation later,” said Ohio Senate Majority Caucus Press Secretary John Fortney. “So, it is best to make sure to get the bill done right the first time.”
The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police said it has been pushing for the change for eight years, and it is now time for action.
Stoltz said he and his relatives contacted state legislators to support adding coverage.
“It's really on them now,” he said. “If there were other illnesses or ailments, they would be covered. I don't understand why it's not.”
Stoltz said he has a hearing scheduled to try to receive benefits through state retirement funds, but that coverage would be far less than what would be offered through workers’ compensation.