"It has just only recently become apparent that PTSD is rampant in the community of emergency responders," author Hampton Sides said in an NPR interview.

First Responders' PTSD Story Opens Debate

A story posted and broadcast Dec. 30 by NPR about a Colorado emergency responder's post-traumatic stress disorder is sparking a lively debate about the cost of treatment.

A story posted and broadcast Dec. 30 by NPR about a Colorado emergency responder's post-traumatic stress disorder is sparking a lively debate about the cost of treatment. Michael Ferrara, who spent 30 years as an emergency responder in Aspen, Colo., describes his own post-traumatic stress disorder, where he became unable to stop himself from recalling images of trauma victims at some of the scenes he had witnessed.

"It's really hard to come upon the body of a good friend. It's happened to me numerous times," he told NPR's Audie Cornish. The most recent example he cited was responding when a friend had died in a 2008 avalanche.

"It's just only recently become apparent that PTSD is rampant in the community of emergency responders," said Hampton Sides, who wrote the Outside Magazine January 2011 article about Ferrara on which the NPR story was based and joined Ferrara in the conversation with Cornish that was broadcast. Sides praised the Department of Veterans Affairs' work to treat PTSD and said increased awareness of PTSD is helping people who suffer from it.

Several kinds of comments are being posted about the online NPR article, sparking an online debate Monday. One kind warns taxpayers will be saddled with high costs for treating responders' PTSD, while another chides those concerned about cost for ignoring the valuable public service provided by responders and thinking only of themselves. Other commenters agreed PTSD is common among responders and can be effectively treated at reasonable cost.

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