The Montana Division of Justice this week mentioned 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, in response to the lawsuit.
Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for the Montana Division of Justice, mentioned in an e-mail Monday the division was wanting into Miller’s allegations.
“There’s little question our Montana Freeway Patrol troopers have a troublesome, hectic, and harmful job,” Cantrell mentioned. “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 degree within the company the choice was made to terminate Miller’s employment.
Reached by cellphone on Monday, Miller declined to remark.
Based on the lawsuit, Miller was sworn into the state freeway patrol in 2014, obtained quite a few awards and recognition for his service over the following 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 ugly deadly crashes and performing CPR on no less than 5 people, together with a 34-day-old toddler who didn’t survive, in response to the submitting.
Miller’s subsequent diagnoses included PTSD and different circumstances which, in response to the lawsuit, had been recognized by physicians and psychological well being suppliers to be a results of his work as a trooper. These circumstances 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 achieve out for assets and assist.
Sgt. Jay Nelson, a spokesperson for MHP, on Tuesday mentioned that marketing campaign included a collection of emails from Col. Steve Lavin throughout Psychological Well being Consciousness Month.
“The welfare of troopers has at all times been a precedence for the Patrol, and now we have a sturdy program to assist troopers who could also be experiencing psychological well being disaster,” Nelson mentioned, together with a peer help program.
Based on a 2020 report by the U.S. 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 essentially the most harmful time for regulation enforcement officers is off responsibility, at residence,” the division’s Workplace of Neighborhood Oriented Policing Companies report states. “Companies want to supply assets that can assist enhance officers’ psychological wellness.”
On account of that state outreach marketing campaign, Miller met with supervisors at an undescribed degree 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 supply wage advantages for as much as one 12 months if a trooper goes on a depart of absence following an damage. That part of regulation mentions “an damage that necessitates medical or different remedial therapy 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 alleges he was advised he can be terminated until he resigned from the freeway patrol. Miller then utilized for incapacity retirement from the Montana Public Worker Retirement Administration. That utility was denied, in response to the lawsuit.
Miller was terminated in November 2021. On the time, in response to 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 taking place to troopers sooner or later.