While Sumpter Township officials stood for a moment of silence in respect for the victims of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas May 25, they wasted no time in responding to the psychological effect such a critical event might have on first responders in their community.
The trustees approved an added insurance policy for both Sumpter Township first responders, and other employees, who might be involved in a critical incident, whether an outside event or a personal crisis.
Deputy Clerk Anthony Burdick spoke to the trustees during a study session preceding the regular May 25 meeting about the need for an added employee assistance policy.
“Our current policy requires that the employee be on long-term disability before offering this coverage,” he said. The policy approved by the board members will include coverage for all 71 township employees along with first responders.
Burdick said he was suggesting the stand-alone policy which provides extra benefits particularly in the wake of any critical incident response.
The benefits include counseling, support services, advice, financial counseling and legal references. Burdick said the 11-pages of benefits offered by the policy include immediate counseling or support, critical for first responders. “Our world isn't getting any less complicated,” he said.
Burdick explained two levels of the plan. A policy which would include only the 47 first responders would be an expense of $32 per person, per year for a total annual premium of about $1,500, he said. The policy approved by the trustees will cover all 72 township employees at an annual total cost of just under $2,300.
Burdick stressed that the coverage would include every employee who is currently receiving wages from the township. He commented that he felt this plan was superior to an in-house counseling service because of the confidentiality it offers those who may use the professional services. He said often employees are hesitant to use counseling that may become public knowledge.
He explained that should an employee exceed the amount of coverage offered, or the number of professional counseling sessions offered, they could then be subject to an out-of-pocket expense.
Trustee Don LaPorte was not in favor of that restriction and ask Burdick if there was another level of coverage that would provide more services to first responders and employees.
“Without a doubt this is a good start. If we were to have an event, I don't think five sessions is going to cover it. The employees should not have to pay,” LaPorte said. “I would like to see if we could move up a plan and not tarnish what we've already paid for.
“First responders see things day-to-day that the public will never see,” he added.
Board members unanimously approved the insurance expense and the pursuit of a more inclusive policy. Trustee Matt Oddy was excused from the meeting.