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PTSD For First Responders Legislation Advances In Florida Statehouse

Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee

Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee. Source: WikiMedia Commons

Legislation to expand workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and other first responders unanimously passed its first Senate committee this week.

In part, the bill would require workers’ comp to cover mental conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many of these ailments do not show up immediately following a specific event, but rather take years to present with symptoms.

Currently, PTSD is only fully covered by workers’ comp if the mental injury is accompanied by a physical injury that requires medical treatment.

Many firefighters regularly see troubling images that are not easily erased from the brain, adding that any increased expense to the state should be minimal, said Florida Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis.

“We are going to work with legislative leadership to ensure that those benefits are covered,” said Patronis. “So, the benefits that our first responders deserve, they should receive. In the scheme of things, it’s not a huge fiscal expense.”

The suicide rate among first responders is higher than the general population, said Patronis, and he hopes expanding workers’ comp coverage for mental health issues will bring that number down.

The legislation has three more committee stops in the Senate before it can be voted on by the full chamber during the 2018 session which starts next month.

In the House, two similar bills have been filed but neither has yet been heard in committee.

WLRN is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by AdventHealth.

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