Nebraska bill could expand workers’ compensation, prioritizing mental health

LB5 would require mental health care to be covered under workers comp cases.
A bill in the Nebraska Legislature would help employees better deal with workplace trauma if passed.
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 6:49 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - A bill in the unicameral could help people impacted by violence while on the job. If passed, mental health care would be covered by workers’ compensation.

It’s known as LB5. It was introduced by State Sen. Carol Blood from Bellevue.

“I’m so sick and tired of every single time there’s any kind of violence we hear the thoughts and prayers and then we hear the stories of we need to address mental health issues,” Blood said. “Well, here’s the opportunity.”

Blood referred to a shooting at a Bellevue Sonic in November of 2020 that left two workers dead, as well as the shooting at a West Omaha Target store last month.

These two violent acts left employees with mental scars.

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

Right now, the state only gives workers compensation for a physical injury, but not mental health help. That’s what prompted Blood to introduce LB-5.

Those who suffer PTSD or a related mental health injury resulting from workplace violence could receive help.

“You have to be diagnosed by a medical professional in order for it to be covered under workman’s comp and you have to be present in the incident for it to be workman’s comp,” Blood said.

Justin Hubly is with NAPE, a union representing 8,000 government employees in Nebraska. He said he hears stories every day from employees concerned for their safety.

“I don’t differentiate a mental injury from a physical injury,” Hubly said.

Hubly believes bills like this are important.

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

Those in opposition believe this bill isn’t narrow enough. However, Blood said not giving workers the help they need could cost businesses and institutions more.

“It’s time we updated our workman comps statutes in Nebraska to make sure we actually help those at the front end,” Blood said.