State legislator files bill to help first responders with PTSD

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — First responders who are fighting post-traumatic stress disorder on the job are one step closer to getting the same benefits as police officers and firefighters who get physically injured.

Channel 9's Field Sutton found out state Sen. Victor Torres, of Orlando, filed a bill that would change the law to help.

Torres has proposed lowering the burden of proof of PTSD, and allowing departments to pay lost wages for mental injuries, even if no physical injury occurred.

Torres told Eyewitness News about his respect for the work law enforcement officers and firefighters do every day.

"You tell me if that's not going to be a traumatic experience to you, if you're not going to think about this every day of your life,” Torres said.

Eyewitness News asked Torres where the money was going to come from to pay for additional on-the-job injuries. He said his office looked at states with programs similar to the one he’s proposing and he said the states saw no spike in payouts.

“I think it's a really a feel-good bill on both sides of the aisle,” said attorney Geoff Bichler.

The 49 people who died in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub June 12 have been remembered in a lot of ways. But their legacy could end up including providing the motivation to get this changed for our first responders.

"A lot of times, for legislation to get traction, you have to have a compelling example of some kind. And this is certainly a compelling example,” Bichler said.

Christie Larsen, who visited Pulse on Tuesday, told Eyewitness News she'd like to see the Legislature approve the changes.

“If anything positive can come out of this horrible situation they risk their lives for us every day."

Eyewitness News learned about a new organization called "Blue and Red"  that is pushing the bill through social media.

Survivors from inside the Pulse nightclub ended up receiving payouts from the OneOrlando fund. They were able to use that money to treat for PTSD if that's what they wanted to do with it.