Questions raised about workers comp coverage for prison employees

Local News

This is an updated story to clarify facts from an earlier version.

More than two dozen staff members from Ross Correctional Institution were rushed to the hospital last week after apparently being exposed to a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. The incident raised questions about whether the testing, diagnoses and treatment they received at the hospital would be covered by workers compensation benefits.

Bill Teets, a spokesman for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, says a policy change implemented in April provides that the costs of testing and diagnoses of any employee exposed to chemicals including opiates and fentanyl will be covered.

Rep. Rick Perales, a Republican from Greene County, says he has heard of cases of corrections officers being denied benefits in such cases within the past six months. Perales is preparing legislation to ensure that corrections officers are guaranteed the same kind of workers compensation benefits as police officers or paramedics who face similar risks of exposure. “They are really providing us that same service of safety and security and we need to provide the resources and benefits based on their job hazards to each of them in the same manner,” Perales said.

Chris Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, says corrections officers face a similar risk of exposure as police and paramedics and deserve similar benefits. “When it comes to exposures, when it comes to injuries, I think those are things that should be covered by workers compensation of the State of Ohio,” Mabe said.

Teets says there is no job differentiation between police officers and corrections officers in the BWC policy. He says all employees are covered equally.

Perales is currently looking for co-sponsors for his bill.

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