Governor Rick Scott signed into law Tuesday a bill that expands workers’ compensation for first responders.
Under the current law, first responders are entitled to workers’ compensation only for physical injuries.
But the measure signed by Governor Scott at the Tampa Firefighters Museum extends coverage for firefighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics and EMTS to include post-traumatic stress disorder.
Florida CFO and State Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis says the legislation addresses a serious problem facing first responders.
“Our firefighters, they have a suicide rate that’s five times higher than the population of the United States," says Patronis. "For our first responders it’s over double that. Suicide is not a solution to this problem. Signing this bill into law today tells every first responder in the state it’s okay.”
The law, which takes effect on October 1, states a PTSD diagnosis is not enough – it must be disabling. In other words, the first responder has to miss work or be told they can no longer continue working to be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Rep. Matt Willhite (D-Royal Palm Beach), an active duty firefighter, says it’s not just major incidents that take a toll on first responders.
“They’re responding to those calls each and every day," says Willhite. "We don’t wait for a bigincident for this to become a big problem for our first responders. It happens each and every day in their lives. And so for me, this is so passionate. Because I see this each and every day that I go to work.”
In a rare bipartisan fashion, the legislation passed unanimously in both chambers of the Florida Legislature before making its way to Governor Scott’s desk.