Following the horrific tragedy of the recent shooting at a Florida high school, Jimmy Patronis, chief financial officer and state fire marshal of Florida, visited the area to talk to first responders. His particular concern is the mental health care access for these workers who, without second thoughts, would put their lives on the line for others. However, he came away with the conclusion that with the current workers’ compensation rules, first responders are shamefully let down.
A Florida State University study revealed that a significant percentage of first responders consider suicide, just like a 30-year-old Tampa firefighter whose workers’ compensation claim was denied. He sought benefits to cover mental health care, but the fact that he had no physical injuries made him ineligible. He took his own life last September.
Witnessing horrific crimes and facing dangerous situations on every work shift is the norm for first responders. It would be naive to think they can brush emotions and feelings off at the end of every day. At some stage, the accumulation of traumatic experiences becomes overwhelming, and without access to mental health care, suicide may be the only option left.
After his visit, Jimmy Patronis said he wants to see Florida as one of the states that provide workers’ compensation benefits for mental health care. In the meantime, first responders in similar situations may find it helpful to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer could assess the circumstances, and he or she might find a way in which the financial costs of mental health care can be recovered.
Source: sun-sentinel.com, “Mental health for first responders cannot be forgotten“, Jimmy Patronis, Feb. 21, 2018