The Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed SB 376, legislation that provides expanded workers’ compensation benefits to Florida fire fighters, EMTs and police officers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress linked to the job. The bill, which the Florida Senate passed two days earlier, is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Scott.
Sponsored by Florida state Senator Lauren Book and Representative Matt Willhite, SB 376 would include lost wages if first responders meet certain criteria, including presenting convincing evidence that events witnessed are the source of the PTSD. The bill also requires local governments to provide training for mental health awareness, prevention and treatment.
Currently, workers in Florida cannot receive full workers’ compensation benefits for mental or nervous injuries not accompanied by physical injuries. That law was changed in 2007 to allow fire fighters, EMTS and police officers to receive medical benefits – but not lost wages – for PTSD.
“The whole intent of this bill is to get help for fire fighters, to give them the support they need so they can keep working,” says Willhite, also an active fire fighter and member of Palm Beach County, FL Local 2928.