Legislation to help Florida first responders with their Workers’ Compensation benefits has passed its first hearing before the state Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Minority Leader-designate, Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, released the following statement regarding SB 376, which would revise Workers’ Compensation benefits for first responders to include mental or similar injuries suffered by law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel:
“Mental health Workers’ Compensation benefits is a no-brainer for those who save lives every day. Their experiences on the front lines in communities – whether it’s a murder, gunshot victim, stabbing, car accident, fire, or freak accident – are tragically similar to those on the front lines overseas. The constant exposure to trauma and despair take a heavy toll on these individuals and their families.
“Changing the standards for eligibility is overdue. This legislation would move the standard from a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ to ‘clear and convincing.’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for example, is a common disorder that we recognize and know what the consequences can be. The evidence of its impact is both clear and convincing …
“Every emergency personnel department needs and should have dedicated units for mental health debriefings and assistance. As we work towards that goal, this bill is a critical first step in getting the benefits that those who stand first in line to help us, have earned.”