NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A bill is headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to better treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for firefighters.

Jennifer Samples’ husband, James ‘Dustin’ Samples, was fixated on being a firefighter since he was a kid.

“That’s all he wanted to do and be,” said Jennifer. “Since he was in high school, the bus would drop him off at the fire hall and he would hang out with the guys.”

However, after spending decades with the Cleveland Fire Department in East Tennessee, seeing tragedy after tragedy, the mental toll became too much. Dustin died by suicide in 2020.

“He held it in for so long, struggled for so long,” said Jennifer.

Ever since she lost her husband, Jennifer has been fighting for better mental healthcare for firefighters. This year, she finally saw a victory.

The James ‘Dustin’ Samples Act — which was sponsored by more than 100 lawmakers — passed the General Assembly last week and is on the way to the governor’s desk.

If signed, the bill will provide workers’ compensation for Tennessee firefighters diagnosed with PTSD from the tragedies they witness on the job, as well as require firefighters to receive regular PTSD training.

“It’s the accumulation of the little events. It’s the ‘I went to a crash here where somebody died or I went here for the overdose or I went here for the unresponsive.’ It’s the little things that add up, and it’s different for each person,” explained Jennifer.

La Vergne Fire Chief Ronny Beasley said this state funding will allow more firefighters to receive treatment and hopefully continue as first responders.

“Without question, this can be a life-saving bill,” said Beasley. “Unfortunately, I’ve known numerous individuals that left the fire service, emergency services, because of post-traumatic stress. And unfortunately, I have known many that have ended their life.”

📧 Have breaking come to you: Subscribe to News 2 email alerts

Jennifer may have lost the love of her life, but from that pain comes change, and she knows Dustin would be proud.

“The open communication that people are having now, he would just be absolutely elated,” said Jennifer. “This is okay to talk about. In fact, it’s not just okay; it’s necessary to talk about.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. If you need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 or dial 988.