Bill looks to address and treat PTSD in firefighters, paramedics - WSMV Channel 4

Bill looks to address and treat PTSD in firefighters, paramedics

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When the sirens sound and the red lights flash, an emergency responder is often faced with trauma or danger.

Some responders say it can all add up, causing problems down the line. They say the mental health of firefighters and paramedics aren't always taken into consideration. A few lawmakers say there's a move on capitol hill to change that.

"While I was on the job, I can't recall the thousands of calls I have made, but I can recall the tragic ones," said Mark Young, president of a chapter of the International Association of Firefighters. "There's some days it takes you back a little bit."

Young said he has been a firefighter for 20 years. He said he went to legislative plaza Monday to support an important bill.

"We've had some suicides in our department," he said. "It's sad to say, but you hear people at the funeral home saying, 'I wish I would've said something. I wish I would've done something.'"

"We recognize there's a cumulative effect of dealing with this day to day," said Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin.

Whitson pointed out the Army's increasing focus on addressing and treating post traumatic stress disorder.

Sponsoring the Public Safety Employee Behavioral Health Act, Whitson said it's time to do the same for firefighters and EMS workers.

"It's very important we help them recognize we can retain them longer in their job and help their families if they deal with this situation now," Whitson said.

The bill looks to get public safety employees 10 visits with a licensed professional counselor for the purpose of treating PTSD. It also looks to have those treating firefighters and EMS workers do ride-alongs.

Whitson said it's important for counselors to understand the difficulties of the job and know the people they support.

The bill comes in the months after crews fought the fire in Gatlinburg that took the lives of 14.

Whitson said the bill carries a $500,000 price tag, but he believes the benefits outweigh the costs with the retention of employees.

The bill is being discussed in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee, where it's being sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.

"I guess you just want to be tough and not let it be seen with the people you work with," said Young, adding he wants the bill to defeat any stigma of seeking help. "That's so hard for them to do to bring it to the forefront. You just can't do it on your own. You need the professional help."

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