KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee lawmaker from Knoxville is pushing for better access to treatment for firefighters and other first responders struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Senator Richard Briggs is aiming to recognize PTSD as a service-related condition, and a local firefighters association is lobbying for the bill to become law.
The President of the Knoxville Firefighters Association, Kevin Faddis, says this is a big step in the right direction for the mental health of those working on the front lines.
According to a post shared by the Knoxville Firefighters Association: 1 in 5 firefighters and paramedics will suffer from PTSD in their career, and firefighters with PTSD are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide.
“If my car is running ragged, or broken down, I’m going to take it to a professional. So why can I not go to see a professional if I feel broke down,” said Faddis.
Faddis made a trip to Nashville on Wednesday to voice his support to lawmakers about the importance of a recent bill, and letting them know what firefighters face daily.
“Telling them what this consists of, putting a name with the face, putting a face with the name,” Faddis said.
Dr. Richard Briggs is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, explaining the legislation’s intent.
“We’ve often not recognized PTSD as a job-related illness. It is that, it is a job-related illness. What this legislation does is formalize and puts it into code that it can be a job-related illness,” Briggs said.
It opens the door, he says, for first responders suffering to get the treatment they need.
“When they suffer either a psychological or mental injury that causes them to have a post traumatic stress disorder that could be so serious as to become a life-threatening circumstance, we need to do what we can to help them, and that’s what this bill is really all about,” said Briggs.
“We’re looking forward to this, and we’re hoping it goes and it will be a good thing for the firefighters,” Faddis said.
Senator Briggs says the bill still needs to go before several more committees before it goes to the full Senate floor for a vote. He also said he’s introducing another bill with similar language, but it’s not solely related to firefighters, but instead more broadly to public safety employees.
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