Every day, public safety officers put their own safety at risk to protect their communities. They deserve effective mental health supports so that they can continue to do their important work.
Today, Member of Parliament for Oakville North-Burlington Pam Damoff joined Oakville and Burlington public safety officers and first responders at 30 Division Police Station in Burlington to announce that Federal Budget 2018 demonstrates Canada’s commitment to supporting public safety officers by dedicating substantial new funding to address the incidence of post-traumatic stress injuries among public safety officers and marks a significant step forward in supporting research and treatment.
Public safety officers, first responders and those who work alongside them are susceptible to a host of mental health issues as a result of their jobs. Estimates indicate that between 10 and 35 percent of first responders, from paramedics to prison guards will develop PTSD, impacting their work, co-workers, families and the community. Public safety officers are more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse and are more far more likely to commit suicide than people in other professions.
In October 2016, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, of which MP Damoff is a Member, tabled its first unanimous report in 10 years, entitled Healthy Minds, Safe Communities: Supporting our Public Safety Officers through a national strategy for operational stress injuries. The all-party committee called for a national strategy on PTSD and operational stress injuries and for the creation of a Canadian Institute for Public Safety Officer Health Research, an advisory council and an expert working group to develop policies and share research on prevention, screening, education, intervention and treatment nationally.
The committee’s recommendations were recognized and funded in Budget 2018, which was tabled by Minister of Finance Bill Morneau last month in the House of Commons. The budget will provide $20 million over five years, beginning in 2018-19, to support a new national research consortium between the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and
Treatment. This new consortium will work to address the incidence of post-traumatic stress injuries among public safety officers and marks a significant step forward in supporting research and treatment.
The federal government also recognizes that access to mental health supports can be particularly difficult to attain for public safety officers in rural and remote areas, which is why Budget 2018 proposes to invest $10 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, for Public Safety Canada to work with the
Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment to develop a web-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy pilot as a means of providing greater access to care and treatment for public safety officers across Canada. In addition to this funding, Budget 2018 also commits $12.4 million over five years to the RCMP to support the mental health needs of its officers.
“I am very pleased to see our work on this file reflected in Budget 2018,” said MP Damoff. “The work of public safety officers, and that includes first responders, is essential to the safety of Canadians, and we have a duty to ensure their mental well-being. Public safety officers, and those who work alongside them, can suffer greatly from mental health illnesses because of their jobs. They are facing a crisis and we have a duty to support them.”
The traumatic events witnessed on a daily basis by first responders and public safety officers can have very real, lasting and sometimes devastating effects on their lives and the lives of their families and friends. Budget 2018’s funding commitments recognize and validate the mental health challenges they face by taking critical steps to support public safety officers and protect their mental health and well-being.
“This is an issue that I have been deeply committed to throughout my tenure as a Member of Parliament,” said MP Damoff. “Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, has worked diligently to make good on his mandate commitment to develop a plan on post-traumatic stress disorder in public safety officers, and I commend our government for taking action on this crucial file.”
In recognition of the critical role of first responders in protecting Canadians, the federal government committed $80 million in 2017 to the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders over the next five years, with an additional $20 million each year after. The Memorial Grant Program for First Responders will provide a one-time lump sum, tax-free direct maximum payment of $300,000 to the families of first responders who have died as a result of their duties. Families of first responders who die while on the job are also eligible to participate in the program.