Mental health benefits for first responders

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS DESK) - First responders see the grizzliest of things, the kinds of things we can't show you on TV.

Leslie Dangerfield, a widow who was married to a first responder, talked about some of the things her late husband saw on the job.

"Recovering a toddler's body from the river, holding a child clutching a teddy bear as she took her last breath, and carrying decapitated teen's body across the sand who was a victim of a shark attack,” she said.

First responder Stevie LaDue took his life in September. He had sought help for the mental strain of the job, got it, then had it taken away.

Ed Benoway's first responder son-in-law committed suicide. Benoway said, “He didn’t want to die, but he wanted the pain to go away.”

Now state lawmakers are closing in on legislation requiring cities to educate firefighters on PTSD and cover their treatment, including paying them while injured, just as they would for a broken leg.

Democratic Tampa Representative Sean Shaw stated, “This is one of the most important bills this legislature will address this session."

Meghan Villa is Stevie LaDue’s sister. She believes the legislation could have saved her brother. He committed suicide. She said, “When you lose a family member to suicide, so many things become uncertain. And one thing I am certain is this bill needs to pass.”

The price tag for increased benefits? Anywhere from $30 to $100 million a year.

Florida cities have opposed the legislation because of the cost but now they have scaled back their opposition, asking lawmakers simply to make the date of the new coverage coincide with their insurance polices renewal.