Tennessee lawmaker proposes bill to help firefighters dealing with PTSD

Here's what the fire looked like when firefighters received the call at 6:15 on Sunday morning. (Photo credit: McMinn Co. Rescue Squad)

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – A firefighter advocate group is working to get a new piece of legislation made into law.

The Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association‘s “Public Safety Employee Behavioral Health Act” aims to help firefighters and EMS workers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD).

Representative Sam Whitson is sponsoring the bill. The bill would give paid, full-time firefighters and first responders a minimum of ten visits to a mental health provider as a part of their benefits package.

Whitson said it’s all about intervening early to keep first responders on the job and to help them deal with day to day issues.

TPFFA’s Kingsport branch president Matthew Sorge believes the legislation is crucial.

“Being able to get our responders to trained, qualified counselors that specialize in this type of care, that’s the most essential care, that’s the most essential part of this piece of legislation,” Sorge said.

The organization asked Rep. Whitson to look at the bill. He believes it is an opportunity to do something good during his first term.

According to TPFFA, 20 percent of firefighters and first responders have reported suffering from PTSD.

Currently, the bill is making its way through the state’s finance committee. Rep. Whitson hopes the bill will be in this year’s budget hearing.

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