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Nebraska bill could expand workers’ compensation to prioritize mental health

LINCOLN, Nebraska. (Nebraska) – A unicameral bill can help people affected by workplace violence. If adopted, mental health care would be covered by workers’ compensation.

It is known as Legislative Bill 5. It was introduced by State Senator Carol Blood of Bellevue.

“It makes me so sick that every time there is any kind of violence, we hear thoughts and prayers, and then we hear stories about how we need to deal with mental health issues,” Blood said. “Well, here is the opportunity.

Blood referred to the November 2020 Bellevue Sonic shooting that killed two workers, as well as the West Omaha Target shooting last month.

These two acts of violence left the employees with emotional wounds.

“It happens to more people than we think,” Blood said.

Currently, the state only compensates workers for physical injury, but does not provide psychological assistance. This is what prompted Blood to introduce the LB-5.

Help is available for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or related mental trauma as a result of workplace violence.

“You have to be diagnosed by a medical professional for it to be covered by workers’ compensation, and you have to be present at the time of the incident for it to be workers’ compensation,” Blood said.

Justin Hubley is a member of NAPE, a labor union representing 8,000 Nebraska public employees. He said he hears stories every day from employees concerned about their safety.

“I don’t differentiate between mental and physical trauma,” Hubley said.

Hubley believes such bills are important.

“However, it’s a safety net to know that I can file a lawsuit if the need arises,” Hubley said.

Oppositionists consider this bill insufficiently narrow. However, Blood said that not giving workers the help they need could cost businesses and institutions more.

“It’s time to update our Nebraska workers’ compensation charter to make sure we’re really helping those who work on the front lines,” Blood said.

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