New bill allows first responders with PTSD eligible for workers comp

New bill allows first responders with PTSD eligible for workers comp

MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - House Bill 1983 is a new legislation signed by Governor Greg Abbott that will allow first responders with PTSD eligible for workers comp.

"PTSD does affect everybody," said veteran and retired Midland police officer Gary Kennedy. "But it's the first responders that need the most help as well as veterans."

Right now, first responders with the mental illness would have to pay a large deductible. The new bill would provide help to first responders without having them to pay out of pocket. Texas Representative John Wray who filed the bill said PTSD is usually unreported by first responders because they're afraid of losing their jobs.

Kennedy is a retired Midland Police Officer who served on the department for 11 years. He also struggled with PTSD during his time on the force. This led to him creating the organization HEART, a group that works with veterans and first responders battling the mental illness.

"I was dealing with a lot of depression, stress, and I had gone through my fourth suicide," he said. "The incident had to do with a stress reliever as a color. The scene was all blue. His bathroom was blue, his bathtub was blue, everything was blue and my uniform was blue. I couldn't figure out why I started crying in briefing when I looked at my uniform, and I looked around and everybody in the room is in blue. It was depressing."

Kennedy said House Bill 1983 can open more doors when it comes to asking for help, but importantly, save a life.

"There should never be an issue to say if I go to ask for help, something is going to happen," said Kennedy. "That's not the cliche stereotype they have in their head. I'm going to get in trouble, I'm going to get fired. I'm so glad Governor Abbott signed this bill because now it's going to bring about the awareness to those that are our protectors for this city, to know that I have a problem."
The bill goes into effect September 1.

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