AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

The Future of PTSD Legislation for First Responders

By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

The topic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been at the forefront of multiple policy discussions in the last few years. The discussion started with servicemembers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and getting them appropriate mental healthcare.

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But that PTSD discussion has recently expanded into the public safety realm with a focus on police, fire service and emergency medical services (EMS) organizations. Currently, there isn’t enough emphasis for traumatized individuals in these organizations to get the care that they need…yet.

The Multiple Streams Analysis Framework Helps to Explain Development of Public Policies

Many scholars of political science and public policy have developed several frameworks that explain public policy and the shaping of it. One of those frameworks, the Multiple Streams Analysis framework, is a way of understanding how public policies are developed.

In John Kingdon’s book, Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies, he discusses this theoretical framework and the development of public policy. Kingdon posits that three main issues emerge to create new public policies:

  • Problems, politics and policies come together to develop the environment for changing public policy.
  • A window of opportunity emerges.
  • A policy entrepreneur sees this window of opportunity and essentially helps to push the changes through.

The Multiple Streams Analysis framework is particularly interesting for how it accounts for the various facets of society to come together to create policy changes.

Applying the Multiple Streams Analysis Framework to PTSD Legislation

Essentially, PTSD is a growing problem. It is apparent that mental health services in the United States are not working effectively, and public policies show that these services need more funding. The unfortunate reality is there simply isn’t enough money needed to pay for all of these services.

There are multiple policy entrepreneurs working on this issue. Some of those organizations include nonprofit organizations and special interest groups that represent various first responder professions.

How Policies and PTSD Legislation May Develop in the Future

Because of other political theories such as policy diffusion (where a policy will move across the country), more workers’ compensation legislation will arise in more states across the country.  We can also expect to see some debates about how local governments — and potentially state governments — will work to handle the costs associated with providing more mental health services to their employees.

While the momentum is certainly there for more PTSD legislation and discussion, it will not be an easy fix for policy makers. PTSD legislation will remain in policy discussions for years to come.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as an Intermittent Emergency Management Specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services, as At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds multiple graduate degrees.

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