As the calendar turned to October, the weather didn’t change but some good legislation became law. One of those pieces of legislation involves our first responders and their susceptibility to PTSD as a result of their difficult and stressful work. Finally, the Florida’s lawmakers acknowledged that and decided to take care of those who take care of us.
The change for first responders (SB 376) would expand workers’ compensation insurance benefits for firefighters, police officers, paramedics and emergency-medical technicians who suffer from PTSD.
The office of state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who has started running a campaign ad that highlights his support for the law, announced last week the launch of training materials for first responders on PTSD.
“We’ve heard terrible stories about the impact tragedies like Pulse, Parkland and most recently Jacksonville Landing, have on our first responders and their families,” Patronis, whose job includes serving as state fire marshal, said in a statement. “The training is an important step needed to help our first responders.”
The attempted suicide rate among first responders is ten times that of normal citizens. That’s not really surprising when they witness tragedy and death on a daily basis.
Under the new law, first responders who have witnessed the death of a minor or witnessed a death that involved “grievous bodily harm of a nature that shocks the conscience” can file workers’ compensation claims for lost wages.
The new law is expected to increase workers’ compensation costs for cities and counties that employ first responders by upward of $7 million, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance.
Of course, some detractors argue that the legislation doesn’t go far enough and the artificial limitations placed on who may qualify for benefits is being made by politicians and not healthcare professionals trained in recognizing PTSD. That is a valid point and there may be a point in time where the legislation is expanded and the professionals rather than politicians make the decisions as to whom needs to receive benefits.