JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville firefighter battling for PTSD benefits is getting support from a state leader.
“Sometimes we need to show them that we’ve got their back,” said Jimmy Patronis, who is Florida’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal. “[First responders] have our backs technically 24/7, 365 days a year every time we dial 911.”
Patronis filed an “Amicus Curiae Brief” on July 30. It is also known as a “friend of the court brief” that voices his support for first responders getting benefits for any mental and nervous injuries.
JFRD firefighter Jerome Patterson is seeking medical benefits for mental or nervous injuries of PTSD.
He has already been denied twice.
“There is definitely a powerful psychological burden that comes from the trauma that these men and women experience,” Patronis said.
Randy Wyse, Jacksonville Association of Firefighters Union Chief, agrees.
“Firefighters are exposed to horrific scenes on a regular basis,” Wyse wrote in a statement to News4JAX. “Our state legislators and governor recognized that due to these high-stress jobs, firefighters should receive workers’ compensation benefits when they receive a mental injury. The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters supports our brother in receiving the medical benefits he deserves.”
The document Patronis filed shows his interest in the case without being involved in the litigation.
Court documents show Patterson was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2015, following a triple-murder suicide in Oceanway he responded to.
Twin babies along with their grandfather were shot and killed. The gunman killed himself.
The mother of the children was also shot and severely injured but survived.
“Now that individual who has to play a role of being strong and on top of their game every single day comes to grips that they are fighting demons that they just can’t simply erase from their memories,” Patronis said.
Documents from the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims show Patterson fought for medical benefits from two different calls within the last two years.
Once was in December 2020 after trying to save a man in cardiac arrest at a football game who ultimately died.
Another call happened less than two months later after finding a woman dead, also from a heart attack.
Both claims were denied when the judge said Patterson “did not show clear and convincing evidence that he sustained a manifestation of a new or aggravated compensable injury” from the 2015 incident or events after.”
Patronis was a catalyst in a change to a 2018 law that now secures additional mental health benefits for first responders. He says the intent was to expand PTSD care and coverage, not limit it. He believes that is getting misconstrued on the local level.
“I know what the interpretation of the law is,” Patronis said. “I know what the intent of the law is and when the law is under attack, I feel like it is my job to stand up and fight for it. We are not trying to weigh in on the character of any of the individuals. We are not trying to be critical of any of the parties. We are just saying that this is the law that was passed by the Florida legislature. This is how we interpreted it on how it is supposed to work.”
Patterson is appealing the judge’s decision to the Florida first court of appeals.