Minneapolis Requires Mindfulness Training, While Minnesota Adopts Rules That Limit Proven Mental Health Treatment for Peace Officers

A police officer, paramedic, and firefighter all pose for the camera.

The Southwest Journal, a local newspaper in Southwest Minneapolis, recently reported on the development of a mindfulness and wellness program aimed at making Minneapolis cops “more compassionate” in response to the highly publicized shooting death of Minneapolis resident Justine Ruszczyk Damond. According to the article “before the end of the year, all 888 MPD officers will be required to take a three-hour training session designed to improve their health, wellness and sense of compassion”. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can be an effective tool with a lasting impact. The city is taking a step in the right direction by introducing mindfulness training and exercise, but should go a step further by incorporating it in an overall treatment plan to increase its effectiveness.

Yet, while the City of Minneapolis is investing in mindfulness training, the State of Minnesota, Department of Labor & Industry is drafting rules that would significantly limit access to mental health care for Police Officers, Firefighters, and First Responders who are diagnosed with work-related PTSD. That makes no sense.

On January 1, 2019, the Minnesota Workers Compensation laws changed to recognize a legal presumption that Police Officers, Firefighters, and First Responders who develop PTSD are presumed to have developed PTSD as a result of the numerous traumatic events that they experience or are exposed to in the line of duty.

According to one study, police officers experience, on average, over three traumatic events for every six months of service. Police-specific traumatic events may include violent events such as armed conflicts, and more sad and depressing incidents such as abusive violence, assisting victims of severe traffic accidents, and handling dead bodies.

Unfortunately, Peace Officers are often reluctant to admit that they are experiencing PTSD because of the stigma associated with mental health disorders, and the legitimate fear that they might lose their jobs. Many also don’t know who to turn to for help and cannot afford to pay for mental health care on their own.

Those Peace Officers who seek mental health care for work-related PTSD will soon face another hurdle: the PTSD Treatment Parameters. When the Minnesota Legislature adopted the law that Police Officers, Firefighters, and First Responders who develop PTSD are presumed to have developed PTSD because of their work activities, the insurance industry lobbied for the development of PTSD Treatment Parameters that save insurance companies money by limiting covered employees’ access to mental health care. All the while, the profitability of the workers’ compensation insurance industry continues to rise.

The PTSD Treatment Parameters (as drafted) limit:

  • The length of time that workers’ compensation must pay for mental health care
  • The number of mental health care appointments covered by workers’ compensation
  • The type of mental health treatments covered by workers’ compensation
  • The prescription medications that will be reimbursed by workers’ compensation

Without access to mental health care treatment paid for by workers’ compensation, Peace Officers diagnosed with work-related PTSD will be left to fend for themselves. And, unfortunately, many Peace Officers will abandon their recommended course of treatment because they simply cannot afford to pay for ongoing care.

At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we are working to fight against the adoption of PTSD Treatment Parameters that limit Peace Officers’ access to mental health care. We are currently trying to gather at least 100 public comments speaking out against the adoption of the PTSD Treatment Parameters so that we can request a public hearing on the issue. Please contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. to learn more about how you can help us in this effort. If you or someone you know is affected by work-related PTSD, contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.