dispatchers workers comp

Lawmakers sponsoring a bill to cover traumatic events for dispatchers with workers compensation insurance are, from left. Rep. Jonathan Singer, Rep. Tony Exum Sr., Sen. Rhonda Fields and Sen. John Cooke.

A bill to provide worker's comp for emergency dispatchers in traumatic situations is headed to the Colorado House floor.

Senate Bill 26 passed the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee unanimously Tuesday morning, after passing the upper chamber 30-2 on Feb. 2.

The bill adds dispatchers to the list of first responders who can take time off after hearing a traumatic event on the job, the expansion of legislation that passed in 2017.

Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat from Longmont, thanked employees, employers and insurers who worked together on the legislation that appears headed toward passage.

"It's in part because of the commitment to making sure we have a system that works," he said. "The question I always like to ask is: who helps our helpers when they need help? This bill is going to help our helpers and make sure that we actually do the right thing."

The bill also is sponsored in the House by Rep. Tony Exum Sr., a Democrat from Colorado Springs who is a retired firefighter.

"We definitely need to consider our dispatchers, who are first-responders in every sense of the word," he said.

The legislation was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley who is the former Weld County sheriff, and Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora. 

Athena Butler, executive director of Denver 9-1-1 for the city and county, said her agency handles about a million calls a year, often from people having their most traumatic days. It's important to keep the people who are trained in the work on the job, even in the face of post traumatic stress disorder. 

"PTSD is treatable and it's curable, but we need that option to make it available to our employees," she said. 

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