Florida first responders one step closer to PTSD coverage

HB 227 passes latest committee hurdle with unanimous vote

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Bill 227 unanimously passed the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday, bringing the proposed PTSD first responder legislation one step closer to becoming law.

 

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Willhite, a fire captain and paramedic for Palm Beach County,

would provide  first responders full  workers’ compensation benefits “for mental or nervous injuries regardless of whether such injuries are accompanied by physical injuries.”

 

The bill moves to a final House subcommittee hearing next week before the Government Accountability committee, which is chaired by Rep. Matt Caldwell, of District 79.

 

Jessica Realin, wife of Pulse first responder Gerry Realin, said she is confident

lawmakers are rallying around the proposed legislation.

 

Realin, who testified before the committee in Tallahassee Tuesday, said she felt the work of the past two years is paying off.

 

“It is nice to see my family’s struggle along with other first responders’ cries for help finally being heard," she said.

 

Realin said one lawmaker met with her to express how important it was that first responders and spouses testify to bring home the emotional impact of PTSD.

 

“I’m confident the bill will pass this session,” Realin said. ”The league of cities argues cost but the financial impact they provided was unrealistic.”

 

The league presented a theoretical fiscal impact study that suggested if the state's entire team of first responders , estimated to be in excess of 80,000 men and women, left for PTSD treatment for six months, it would cost the state $2.2 million.

 

If the bill is approved it would become law July 1 ,2018.

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