TALLAHASSEE – Florida police chiefs are calling on lawmakers to give their officers more time to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Police say the time limit made it nearly impossible to qualify officers.
Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter said the number of officers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is vastly underestimated.
“I would venture to assume that you would probably be hard pressed to find an officer who doesn’t have some form of one,” said Slaughter, who also works as a parliamentarian for the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
Just three years ago, PTSD was added as a recognized work injury and covered by workers’ compensation.
Yet many fall through the cracks.
Walton County Sheriff Michael Atkinson spoke to lawmakers about a deputy sheriff who survived a shooting.
Five years later, he was a candidate for promotion and surrendered his badge out of the blue.
“He hadn’t even spoken to his wife and children. He just wanted to go out there because of an incident that’s happened over the past five years, ”said Atkinson, former president of the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Law enforcement has said that much of the problem is that to be eligible for workers’ compensation, officers must report a specific incident that caused their PTSD and seek compensation within a year.
“The nature of PTSD, science shows you don’t know when these symptoms are going to show up,” Slaughter said.
Police hope lawmakers can change PTSD coverage during the 2022 legislative session.
Top of the list: give agents more time to apply.
“It’s an arbitrary time limit that just doesn’t make sense. Officers may start showing symptoms later in their careers or there may be a cumulative effect of multiple events and at the moment current legislation does not, ”Slaughter said.
And law enforcement also told Capitol News Service that they believe better PTSD coverage and access to mental health resources could help retain officers.
They said better trained and more experienced officers will result in greater public safety as a whole.
According to bluehelp.org, 11 Florida law enforcement officers committed suicide in 2020.
Already, seven people have committed suicide this year.
If you or a loved one is in crisis, call the suicide helpline at 800-273-8255.
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