Wife of Ex-DEA Agent: Florida can lead the way with PTSD legislation

Co-founder of Code-9 Project to testify in Tallahassee

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

TALLAHASEE, Fla. - Florida lawmakers will hear testimony Tuesday morning in support of workers compensation legislation for first responders from the CODE 9 Project, a non-profit organization committed to raise awareness about PTSD.

Debbie Ortiz, Code 9 co-founder, said PTSD is personal for her after seeing how it affected her husband, Mike, a former New York State Trooper and undercover Drug Enforcement Agency agent.

Mike has been under treatment for PTSD since his retirement in 2001.

“This is a very real problem that is taking the lives of our first responders,” Ortiz said. “Florida can lead. Florida can be the state to show other states what to do and how to do it right.”

Democratic State Rep. Matt Willhite, who is a captain on the Palm Beach County Fire and Rescue team, sponsored the House version of the PTSD measure, known as HB 227.

State Sen. Lauren Book, of Plantation, sponsored the Senate corresponding bill of the workers' compensation measure which has passed unanimously before three Senate sub-committees.

Both measures would change the current state law, which mandates a first responder must have a physical injury accompanying a PTSD diagnosis to be eligible for full medical coverage.

The League of Cities is strongly against the legislation questioning exposure to high costs.
Ortiz bristled at the suggestion that potential cost supersedes coverage for first responders diagnosed with PTSD.

“We can have that argument,” Ortiz said. “But I’m not going to accept that somebody’s life is worth a dollar!”

The first House hearing on the measure is scheduled for Tuesday at 8 a.m. before the Oversight Transparency and Administration Subcommittee.

For more information on the Code 9 project and the organization's new film, “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance” visit code9project.org.

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