Last week, legislation to extend workers’ compensation benefits to cover post-traumatic stress disorder for firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, and first responders unanimously passed the first Florida Senate Committee. Currently, PTSD is only covered completely by workers’ comp in Florida if a worker suffers a mental injury along with a physical injury that needs treatment.
Advocates argue that first responders have higher rates of suicide than the general population, and expanding benefits could reduce the figure. According to Senator Lauren Book, a sponsor of the bill, more firefighters commit suicide as a result of PTSD than are killed in the line of duty. In addition, more police officers commit suicide as a result of PTSD than are killed at the hands of offenders.
Minnesota has adopted this extended coverage of workers’ comp to include PTSD and has not reported high rates of fraud or exorbitant costs to government.
The proposed bill would allow for workers’ comp to fully cover PTSD treatment if a first responder suffered a mental or nervous injury as a result of witnessing a fatal injury, murder, suicide, or child death, or if they arrived on the scene where mass casualties occurred. Treatment must start within 15 days after the death or mass casualties occurred. A licensed psychiatrist must certify the injury as meeting adequate criteria for PTSD.
The bill has three more rounds of approval to go before it reaches the Florida Senate floor.