NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Tennessee General Assembly passed the James “Dustin” Samples Act on Friday, which aims to provide support to firefighters following a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis.
SB 856 establishes a grant program to mitigate the cost to employers providing workers’ compensation for firefighters with PTSD diagnoses. The funding is designated for the employer, which is required to provide mental health resiliency training as part of its regular education in order to qualify for the grant.
The legislation clarifies that a PTSD diagnosis connected to one or more calls of a traumatic nature qualifies as an injury suffered during employment, therefore falling under workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters.
Before this legislation, PTSD was not covered under workers’ compensation for firefighters in Tennessee, forcing fire workers to fund their own mental health treatment with personal health insurance or out-of-pocket.
“Addressing the crisis of PTSD and suicide in the fire service requires tools for both prevention and treatment,” said Sen. Paul Bailey of Sparta. “I was honored to sponsor the James ‘Dustin’ Samples Act and grateful that my colleagues in the General Assembly joined with me to prioritize funding for such a worthwhile program.”
The bill is named after Captain James ‘Dustin’ Samples of Cleveland, Tennessee, who died by suicide in 2020 after 22 years of service. Samples was only 41 years old and suffered a years-long struggle with PTSD. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Bailey and Rep. Johnny Garrett of Goodlettsville.
“I am extremely grateful that Dustin’s legacy will live on and he will continue to do what he loved doing – helping others and saving lives,” said Samples’ widow, Jennifer Samples. “I know the funding of the James ‘Dustin’ Samples Act will continue to build awareness, support, and resources to those who have experienced unspeakable traumas. By passing this bill, the Tennessee General Assembly has shown that it is okay to reach out for help and Tennessee supports those who protect them every day.”