by Stephen Dafoe
The Government of Alberta is earmarking $4.5 million over the next three years to support mental health treatment for first responders, including firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, corrections officers and emergency health-care workers. The funding will include research, prevention and stigma reduction.
Non-profit organizations and researchers working to improve first responder mental health will be eligible to receive a portion of $1.5 million in grant money each year for the next three years with grant applications opening Sept. 20 of this year.
Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police President Dale McFee said keeping first responders as healthy as possible so they can continue to protect Albertans is key.
“Investing in leading-edge and evidence-based programs will ensure our members get the best possible care when they need it most,” McFee said. “We strive to continually get better and this can only be done through proper research and listening to those officers affected by PTSI.”
Alberta College of Paramedics President Dusty Schlitter also supports the move.
“As most Albertans know, paramedics are the ones who meet you in some of the worst moments you’ll ever experience; but what many don’t realize is that paramedics can relive those moments over and over with every call,” Schlitter said. “We are grateful for this commitment of additional mental health resources and see this as a crucial acknowledgement of this extensive and complex condition in the first response community.”
From 2014 to 2018, 450 WCB claims for first responders related to post-traumatic stress injuries cost more than $55 million.