First responder PTSD bill to help many suffering in the line of duty

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Fort Myers Fire Chief John Caufield

The community gathered to commemorate a bill that gives first responders access to treatment for PTSD.

Governor Rick Scott signed bill SB 376 which extends workers’ compensation to first responders to treat PTSD.

Those who protect and serve the community see people at their worst. Now they have access to benefits to help them cope and heal.

Two years ago, Rob Popkin responded to a call that changed his life. As he arrived to the scene of a head-on collision on the Sanibel Causeway, he found one of his own men fighting for his life.

“He asked me if he was going to die,” Popkin said.

He says it was a long process for his friend to recover, but in 12 months, he returned to the line of duty.

“He is fit as a fiddle, and back on the job doing the best he can. He’s doing great, and I’m not doing so great,” Popkin said.

Popkin continues to fight the mental toll of that day.

“It progressed into mood changes, nightmares, panic attacks, internalizing, withdrawing from my family,” he said.

He has been on unpaid leave related to post-traumatic stress disorder since Jan. 10.

So it was a victory today for Popkin and many others suffering from this disorder in the line of duty.

As for Popkin, he’s determined to get back to work in June.

“I can bounce back from the time off, and I will be back. I’m just going to fight every day,” he said.

WINK News reporter Jessica Alpern was live at today’s celebration of the bill signing in downtown Fort Myers.

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