Gov. Scott signs PTSD legislation into law at Tampa Firefighter Museum

News 6 joins first responders, their families for special ceremony

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

TAMPA, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Tuesday that will provide first responders with wage compensation as they receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Senate Bill 376, approved unanimously by both the Senate and the House, will provide workers compensation benefits, “Providing that, under certain circumstances, post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by a first responder is an occupational disease compensable by workers’ compensation benefits.”

The new law eliminates the mandate that a physical injury must accompany the PTSD diagnosis.

During a special ceremony honoring state fire fighters in Tallahassee earlier this month, Scott took a moment to honor first responders lost in the line of duty and to PTSD.

“I want to thank all firefighters for the sacrifices they make,” he said. “I intend to sign it (SB 376) as soon as it reaches my desk.” 

Scott and Chief Financial Officer/State Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis joined dozens of first responders and their families at a special bill signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Tampa Firefighter Museum.

In an exclusive interview, Patronis said the stories covered by News 6 along with his meeting with first responders and their families, inspired him to make the PTSD law his top priority.

“Suicide in that profession is five times higher than the rest of the United States. I hate that those sacrifices had to take place in order to bring this issue to light,” he said.

Jessica Realin, wife of Pulse first responder Gerry Realin, has been an instrumental force in pushing for
PTSD legislation.

“I feel excited for our first responders,” a tearful Jessica Realin said. “I don’t think they need fight to prove they are suffering just to make a department or city understand their pain.”

The Realins attended the signing ceremony. 

“The first responders that have joined me on this journey feel like they’re being vindicated, their pain and their suffering has been validated,” she said.

As to what she planned to say to Scott, she paused for a moment:“ I appreciate him signing this important piece of legislation, and I hope he continues to hear our first responders. Unfortunately we are going to still hear about this (PTSD) it’s not an easy thing to come forward.”
 

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