Tennessee Legislature passes James “Dustin” Samples Act for Legislators for First Responders PTSD


The Tennesse General Assembly voted to pass legislation honoring firefighter James “Dustin” Samples–who tragically took his own life. Friday, April 21, 2023 House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville led the charge passing house bill 0976 with a bipartisan efforts among both Republicans and Democrats.

In December 2020, the Cleveland community came together to mourn the loss of firefighter James “Dustin” Samples, who tragically took his own life. Captain Samples had been diagnosed with PTSD in 2014 and had sought help prior to his death.

In the fiscal years of 2023-2024 and beyond, local governments will face expenditure hikes exceeding $445,400 and $890,700, respectively. However, the legislation aims to ensure that these expenditure hikes are offset through grants, with the ultimate goal of keeping the net effect on local governments minimal.

Firefighter Nate Kuzdzal expressed concern about the alarming trend of first responders taking their own lives, stating, “We are our own worst enemy. It’s not cancer, it’s not fires, we’re taking our own lives.”

Related: Franklin firefighters to walk more than a marathon to raise awareness of firefighter PTSD

In honor of Captain Samples, the 303 Project was created with the goal of making PTSD a work-related injury for firefighters in Tennessee. Jennifer Samples, Dustin’s widow, spoke out in support of the project, calling for legislation that would provide financial assistance to firefighters seeking help for PTSD.

The 303 Project is gathering support by collecting signatures on three separate flags, which will be brought together in Nashville on February 20th for the Day on the Hill, where fire departments and legislators will discuss issues within the fire service. The success of the bill will depend on the support it receives at this important event.