Florida House And Senate Voting On Workers Comp Bill For First Responders Friday

Mar 1, 2018

The Florida House and Senate will vote Friday on similar bills that would make it easier for first responders dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to get the treatment they need.

The chambers will vote on HB 227 and SB 376. The similar bills are aimed at revising compensation for first responders dealing with job-related PTSD.

The bills would expand benefits for first responders and volunteer first responders by allowing workers compensation to cover PTSD that is unaccompanied by physical injury.

Current law requires a first responder to have a physical injury in order to receive benefits for a mental injury.

"The bill is not perfect but it's a start. We are truly appreciative of the Florida House and Senate for their work on this bill," Steve Zona, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Jacksonville Lodge 5-30, said.

Zona stated the organization fully supports the bill.

The legislation would only cover specific death-related events leading to trauma, such as: witnessing directly the death of a minor, participating in the physical treatment of an injury, and seeing a deceased minor.

The bills would also require agencies to provide educational training for mental health awareness, prevention, mitigation and treatment for first responders and volunteer first responders.

"This is important. PTSD is not what's wrong with you, it's what happened to you," Zona said.

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said in a statement Thursday, “Our first responders serve us every day without hesitation. There should never be a hesitation to help them. I urge the House and Senate to QUICKLY pass this needed legislation this year.”

“Some studies indicate that first responders and other professionals who are exposed to potentially traumatic events in their workplace are four to five times more likely to develop PTSD compared to the general population,” according to a Florida Senate Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement.

According to the National Center for PTSD, about eight million adults will have PTSD during a given year.

If the similar bills are approved Friday, they will be revised into a single bill that is sent to Governor Rick Scott for approval.

Gabrielle Garay can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6317, or on Twitter at @GabbyAGaray