As more awareness is raised with what is becoming an epidemic in first responder professions, there is a need for PTSD/PTSI to be recognized as an occupational illness in Oregon.
Groups representing Oregon police officers (ORCOPS), firefighters (Oregon State Firefighters Council) and correction officers (Association of Oregon Corrections Employees) announced a bill Monday to be introduced in the 2019 Legislative Session, that would make it easier for these public servants to get treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).
Currently, there is a very high bar for these employees to face when having to prove this kind of cumulative trauma. The bill would ensure that these public servants are able to access treatment and services to address these occupational conditions.
Jeff Shepard, retired police officer and firefighter, rides his motorcycle from Seattle to Las Vegas to raise awareness of PTSD and PTSI. He was diagnosed himself with PTSD, after after an ambush shooting in his patrol car. After a diagnosis by the department psychologist, which led to therapy, Shepard spent a year in therapy and returned to work.
Shortly after his return he was selected to become a motor officer, something he had dreamed of achieving since he was a kid. While this elite group makes only 4% of the police force, its specialty is highly coveted and one of the most difficult tests to accomplish. Within the first year of Shepard’s career on a motorcycle he was the target of an explosion, which left his life turned upside down. After being tested by countless doctors, Shepard was diagnosed with PTSD and would be medically retired from his department.
Shepard discovered there was little support or information for first responders specifically struggling with what felt like the shame of PTSD. Shepard says he recognized there was an epidemic of first responders dealing with the same thing he was. This led him to Lesley Mayne the founder of PTSDFoundation.org otherwise known as Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation.
Soon after meeting Mayne, Shepard had found a place where people understood how he was feeling and navigating through his symptoms to try and have a normal life. He became an advocate and wanted to create a place where other people interested in supporting PTSD could unite and draw awareness. This is how Ride for Relief was born.
After creating the first Ride for Relief June of 2017 to bring awareness to PTSD and to support PTSDfoundation.org, Jeff Shepard realized he wanted to ride across the U.S from Tacoma, Washington to Bluemont, Virginia this June where Kyle is buried and honored the contribution Leslie has made to supporting military and first responders who live with PTSD and while creating a nationwide conversation around first responders who live with PTSD. The ride made world news.
Shepard says there should not be a stigma that if you come forward, you'll lose your career. He says getting early help is key. Shepard says a lot of law enforcement officers and firefighters take their own lives every year, which he believes a lot of those suicides come from struggling with PTSD.