Randy Yohe Published

Taiwan Partnership, First Responder Mental Health Highlight House Happenings 

A tall man with glasses presents a document to a shorter, Asian man.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, presents Taiwan partnership resolution to Taiwan delegation member Robin Cheng.
Perry Bennett/WV legislative Photography

Global partnerships and international politics took center stage in the House of Delegates Thursday, along with a continuing legislative effort to address the mental health crisis among the state’s first responders. 

West Virginia And Taiwan

Stepping down from his podium, Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, read House Resolution 9, reaffirming the longstanding sisterhood partnership between West Virginia and Taiwan. The state and the embattled Asian nation have worked together as trade and cultural partners since 1980. 

Taiwan delegation member Robin Chang spoke of the strong West Virginia/Taiwan relationship through trade, economic ties and cooperation in education and related fields, including a united stand supporting global democracy.

“Even as our democracy thrives, the people of Taiwan continue to face harassment and aggression from our neighbor across the Taiwan Strait,” Chang said. “That is why it has been so encouraging and important for the 23 million Taiwanese people to have received the strong support of our friends here in West Virginia, and the United States.” 

Delegates back from a recent mission to Taiwan talked about Taiwan’s hill and hollow topography being similar to West Virginia. However, they said they were getting 5G broadband everywhere. Delegates said Taiwan’s tunnel, bridge and rail infrastructure was exemplary. Now, legislators are studying Taiwan’s related laws and regulations to see how West Virginia can match up.

Hanshaw said it’s a win-win situation to maintain strong relations with a country fighting to remain independent and free. 

“Taiwan is a democratic country,” Hanshaw said. “When we talk about growing and cultivating export markets for West Virginia’s businesses and creating new opportunities to grow our state’s economy, we know that the export markets are how we’re going to do that. And if we want to do business in Asia, we want to do business with people whose values are aligned with ours outright.” 

First Responder Mental Health

House Bill 5241 requires the Insurance Commissioner to audit PEIA claims for the treatment of PTSD of first responders. The commissioner is also charged with filing an annual report.

The state EMS Department is among many working to address a mental health crisis among first responders. 

Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, sponsored the audit bill. She said first responders from her county and elsewhere told her their PEIA insurance mental health claims were consistently rejected. 

A lot of times in PEIA, they were seen to be denied or they were delayed,” Tully said. “As a result of this, we wanted to make sure the insurance commissioner had no oversight over PEIA claims related to this whatsoever, unlike the insurance commissioner being able to audit private insurance. The end goal is to really see how we can work forward and see if we can’t get coverage for our first responders.”

The first responder PTSD audit bill passed the House 90-0 Wednesday evening and was sent to the Senate.