By Andy Sher, Times Free Press
A years-long effort to provide firefighters working in smaller departments access to workers’ compensation coverage for job-related post-traumatic stress disorder problems finally paid off Friday.
Tennessee lawmakers approved a bill doing just that in the waning hours of their annual legislative session. The widow of late Cleveland firefighter James “Dustin” Samples watched as it unanimously passed the Senate and then the House.
The Senate vote was 30-0. The House approved it 95-0.
“Thank each one of you,” Samples’ widow, Jennifer Samples, told applauding senators as she addressed them from the chamber floor following the vote. “I know this has been a long bill, Dustin himself came here years ago speaking on behalf of this same issue.
“I hate it took his life to push it through, but I am so thankful of not only this legislature and assembly coming together, but firefighters and resources across this state honoring and recognizing what our first responders go through and the sacrifices they make on duty — especially off duty.”
Samples, a fire department captain, committed suicide Dec. 11, 2020, following a yearslong struggle with PTSD, according to his family and colleagues.
That came following the Samples’ expenditure of thousands of dollars in personal savings for treatment on a medical issue not covered under government insurance plans in Tennessee.
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