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MHP Trooper claims he was fired for searching for psychological well being assets

The Montana Division of Justice this week stated it’s investigating allegations by a former state trooper that he was fired after reaching out for help to deal with his work-related post-traumatic stress dysfunction.

Zach Miller alleged in a wrongful discharge lawsuit filed in Lewis and Clark County District Courtroom final week that he was fired from the Montana Freeway Patrol in Polson in November 2021. Earlier that 12 months, Miller had sought assist for his PTSD and extra psychological well being afflictions simply Two months after the state justice division started an inner marketing campaign encouraging troopers to take action, based on the lawsuit.

Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for the Montana Division of Justice, stated in an e mail Monday the division was wanting into Miller’s allegations.

“There is no doubt our Montana Freeway Patrol troopers have a troublesome, hectic, and harmful job,” Cantrell stated. “We’re investigating the allegations.”

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The Montana Division of Justice is the one listed defendant within the court docket submitting; it doesn’t specify from whom Miller sought psychological well being assets, or at what stage within the company the choice was made to terminate Miller’s employment.

Reached by telephone on Monday, Miller declined to remark.

In response to the lawsuit, Miller was sworn into the state freeway patrol in 2014, obtained quite a few awards and recognition for his service over the subsequent seven years with out self-discipline or reprimand earlier than he was terminated. Throughout that point, his job duties included situations of being threatened, investigating grossly deadly crashes and performing CPR on not less than 5 people, together with a 34-day-old toddler who didn’t survive, based on the submitting.

Miller’s subsequent diagnoses included PTSD and different situations which, based on the lawsuit, had been recognized by physicians and psychological well being suppliers to be a results of his work as a trooper. These situations deepened in 2021, the submitting states.

In Could 2021, the justice division started a psychological well being consciousness marketing campaign described in Miller’s lawsuit as an encouragement to succeed in out for assets and assist.

Sgt. Jay Nelson, a spokesperson for MHP, on Tuesday stated that marketing campaign included a sequence of emails from Col. Steve Lavin throughout Psychological Well being Consciousness Month.

“The welfare of troopers has all the time been a precedence for the Patrol, and we’ve got a sturdy program to assist troopers who could also be experiencing psychological well being disaster,” Nelson stated, together with a peer assist program.

In response to a 2020 report by the US Division of Justice, 228 officers died by suicide, in comparison with a complete of 135 who died in all different line-of-duty deaths.

“That tells us probably the most harmful time for regulation enforcement officers is off responsibility, at dwelling,” the division’s Workplace of Neighborhood Oriented Policing Providers report states. “Companies want to supply assets that can assist enhance officers’ psychological wellness.”

Because of that state outreach marketing campaign, Miller met with supervisors at an undescribed stage and knowledgeable them of his diagnoses. Miller was positioned on administrative depart, however declined a year-long depart of absence.

State regulation requires the freeway patrol to offer wage advantages for as much as one 12 months if a trooper goes on a depart of absence following an harm. That part of regulation mentions “an harm that necessitates medical or different remedial remedy and that renders the member unable to carry out the member’s duties,” and Miller’s lawsuit claims supervisors denied him the depart as a result of the regulation doesn’t apply to psychological well being accidents.

As an alternative, Miller’s allegations he was instructed he could be terminated until he resigned from the freeway patrol. Miller then utilized for incapacity retirement from the Montana Public Worker Retirement Administration. That software was denied, based on the lawsuit.

Miller was terminated in November 2021. On the time, based on the lawsuit, the trooper’s Collective Bargaining Settlement had expired and the union was with no new contract, so he had no grievance coverage with which to pursue recourse.

Miller has requested a District Courtroom decide to award him damages in misplaced wages and advantages with curiosity, in addition to damages for bodily and emotional misery. He is additionally requested for a court docket order stopping related occurrences from occurring to troopers sooner or later.


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