Tennessee lawmakers propose bill to help fire fighters, first responders dealing with PTSD

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) - A group in Tennessee, that advocates for firefighters in the workplace, is trying to get a new piece of legislation made into law.

The Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association has been working with state legislators on the "Public Safety Employee Behavioral Health Act" bill. The bill aims to help fire fighters and EMS workers dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

The bill's house sponsor, Representative Sam Whitson of the 65th house district, said the bill would give paid, full-time fire fighters and first responders a minimum of ten visits to mental health providers as 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.

Matthew Sorge, President of the Kingsport branch of the Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association said this 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.

Representative Whitson said the TPFFA asked him to take a look at this and it's an opportunity to do something good in his first term. Whitson added that this is the first time this legislation has come up in the state.

TPFFA data shows that 20% of fire fighters and first responders have reported suffering from some form of PTSD.

The bill is making its way through finance committees now. Representative Whitson said he hopes to have it in this year's budget hearing.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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