TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — Local professional firefighters are joining a statewide effort this week to raise awareness on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide within the fire service community.
A release from the Kingsport Firefighters Association says their members, as well as Johnson City’s association will join the 2023 “A Walk for Dustin”. This event aims to provide support and signatures for TN House Bill 976, the Dustin Samples Act.
The bill is named after Captain James ‘Dustin’ Samples, of Cleveland, who died by suicide in 2020 after 22 years of service. Samples was only 41 years old. This legislation, if voted in, would update Tennessee law to include PTSD diagnoses in workers compensation care for firefighters, the release states.
“As the call volume and types of events firefighters respond to have increased, so has our exposure to trauma,” says Jeremy Pitts, President of the Kingsport Firefighters Association.
“Working proactively to reduce stigma and improve access to effective mental health treatment early on will save firefighters’ lives. We are participating to share with our brothers and sisters that ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ and that help is available,” he added.
The Kingsport Firefighters Association will participate in ‘A Walk for Dustin’ on Feb. 6 and 7, then they’ll hand the 303 Project flag over to the Johnson City Firefighters Association, where their members will walk on Feb. 8 and 9.