Funding and supports for PTSD in first responders came to the regional table and Caledon’s Mayor said a lot has been done, while staff showed $12,000 has been spent since 2008.
No job in the world of sports is as intimidating, exhilarating and as stress-ridden as that of an National Hockey League goaltender. Now imagine doing that job while suffering high anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression and having your career nearly cut short by a skate slicing across your neck.
The Ontario government has introduced legislation aimed at making it easier for first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to get mental-health treatment.
Peel Region’s councillors are going to ask for clarity on what happened with money that was supposed to go to paramedics for mental health resources.
Peel paramedics have told The Enterprise they have not seen the results of this funding trumpeted by their region managers and staff, and now, the elected representatives are going to ask for more answers.
They are the first responders everyone counts on in times of crisis to bring care, safety and emergency services – and they are hurting themselves far too often.
Thirty-nine first responders took their own lives in 2015. One died mysteriously in his own car in Bolton this past weekend. Another in Ottawa. And just yesterday (Feb. 4), the body of a Toronto officer was pulled from Lake Ontario. According to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, nine have been lost so far in 2016.
Ontario’s labour minister, Kevin Flynn, could not have picked a better week to announce that the province is moving towards making it easier for police and other first responders to get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This week’s move by Ontario to address post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among first responders is welcomed news, but much more needs to be done to effectively deal with the “crisis” facing some of the province’s emergency service providers, according to the president of the union representing paramedics in Peel Region.
Ontario Advanced Care Paramedic Natalie Harris is a survivor.
After attending a call in 2012 where two nearly decapitated women lay dead, leaving Harris tasked with caring for the naked man lying next to them suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds – she was, needless to say, deeply disturbed.
Wanda Monague reached a breaking point in 2008.
Having been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a Peel Region Paramedic, Monague was depressed, defeated and on the brink of suicide.
On Jan. 1, a change to Manitoba’s Workers Compensation Act took effect that means it will now be far less onerous to claim post-traumatic stress disorder as a work-related injury.
This is a potential game-changer for first responders such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers, who suffer from disturbingly high rates of PTSD.
It should also inspire other jurisdictions to reconsider what a workplace injury really looks like, and adjust their legislation and policies to recognize that a damaged mind can be as great a harm as a lost limb.
First responders provide crucial, often under-appreciated service – everything from helping to find lost children to putting out fires, not to mention rushing people with sudden health woes such as a heart attack to the hospital.
For the most part, it’s rewarding work. But police officers, firefighters and paramedics also witness more than their fair share of life’s horrors: children burned beyond recognition in house fires, teenagers mutilated in car crashes, the many people who suffer heart attacks and can’t be revived, the victims of crime who are stabbed or shot, as well as sometimes being in the line of fire themselves.
The death, the fear, the powerlessness, the stress and the expectations can take their toll on the psyche.
While good data are hard to come by – first responders, like soldiers, are often reluctant to come forward and risk being perceived as weak – research consistently shows that they have rates of PTSD and suicide that are significantly higher than the general public.
(And, yes, PTSD is widespread: According to a large U.S. study, about 3.6 per cent of adults suffer PTSD in any given year and 7.8 per cent at some point in their lifetime. Victims of sexual assault, assault, robbery, car crashes, natural disasters and other traumatic events can all suffer sequelae. The biggest surprise is how few actually do – the human brain tends to be quite resilient.)
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the pervasiveness of mental illness, and a better understanding of its causes. Like most health conditions, mental illness can result from a complex mix of genetics, environment and triggers. Trauma is one of the most common triggers.
Mental illness now accounts for more than 40 per cent of all disability claims in the workplace. Increasingly, mental illness is also a prime cause of workers’ compensation claims, with psychological “injuries” now accounting for more than one in four cases.
In most jurisdictions, however, the burden of proof is on the claimant to show that work activities were the cause of PTSD. What the changes in the Manitoba law do is reverse the onus, so the employer (and the insurer, Workers’ Compensation) must show it is not.
Both Ontario and New Brunswick have proposed legislation that would make similar changes. In Ontario, a private members’ bill from NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act will be debated Feb. 16.
The bill is strongly supported by the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, an advocacy group founded by a paramedic who suffered from PTSD after witnessing the scene of a violent rape and murder.
The fear of employers (and governments, who tend to have the ear of business) is that this kind of change will be costly. But Alberta, which made PTSD an eligible condition for workers’ compensation back in 2012, has not seen a spike in claims. What it has seen, however, is PTSD claims settled more quickly and fairly, particularly for first responders.
British Columbia has also made legislative changes that recognize the right of employees to make claims to WorkSafeBC for work-related mental disorders, although it opted to not use the term PTSD specifically.
Legislators across the country should take note of the legal case that brought about those changes. BC Hydro worker Peter Plesner fought for six years to have his claim of work-related PTSD recognized.
The B.C. court ruled that the fact there were more stringent conditions for recognizing mental trauma than physical trauma violated Mr. Plesner’s rights – because Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal protection of the law to all.
That is essentially what first responders are asking for – equal protection under the law. That those who serve and protect are being denied that fundamental right is injustice as grave as PTSD itself.
Emotions ran high as 163 Syrian refugees were welcomed to their new home for the first time on December 10, 2015.
Just before midnight, two Peel Regional Advanced Care Paramedic crews were on site at Toronto’s Pearson Airport – alongside government officials and volunteers – ready to welcome the first group of Syrian refugees to the city.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Mississauga, ON – On Friday, November 6, 2015, Peel Paramedics of OPSEU Local 277 will be hosting an event in recognition of the brave efforts of two SUBWAY Canada employees.
October 29, 2015
ALPS Study Completion
Congratulations, Peel Paramedics, on participating in a ground-breaking trial. Dr. Paul Dorian’s trial included over 200 EMS services, 12,000 paramedics and 3,000 patients!
Attention from the media and immediate action by Regional Councillors Mike Palleschi and Jennifer Innis forced our management to address this issue over the weekend. OPSEU 277 Peel Paramedics thanks the Regional Councillors for their action on this important matter.
This is a longer post than most, but this is complex subject that required a full-throated rebuttal. This post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.
Recently, OPSEU has focused on campaigning to keep paramedics response a priority during medical emergencies. The following is a letter written by OPSEU President, Warren Thomas:
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) represents approximately 2,100 paramedics who proudly serve the citizens in twenty Ontario communities.
Paramedics are governed by the Ambulance Act and its regulations with medical oversight and authority by a Base Hospital as dictated by the Ambulance Act.
Paramedics are highly skilled and trained to meet the medical needs of the citizens in your communities.
Paramedics are the medical authority on all pre-hospital medical emergencies and provide often-required lifesaving skills from the point of patient contact to the transfer of care at the receiving medical facility.
In November of last year, the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) was at Queen’s Park lobbying for a legislative change that would allow for fire medics and a standardized tiered response agreement for all communities serviced by OPFFA members.
In 2002 and 2010 the fire medic model was a municipal election platform in Owen Sound and Toronto. In both instances it was not endorsed and the supporting candidates were not elected.
Over the coming months we will be communicating with you via email. It is our hope that you will read our correspondence and that it will stimulate a meaningful discussion, as it will contain excerpts from provincial studies which contradict the OPFFA’s assertion that firefighters should be responding to all Code 4 medical calls and their position on a need for a fire medic model.
As an elected official, OPSEU wants to ensure that you have relevant information on these two issues. It is OPSEU’s position that both a standardized tiered response agreement and a fire medic model have the potential to increase costs for Upper Tiered Municipalities, without realizing a measurable improvement to patient care or outcome.
The Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services of Ontario (AMEMSO) 1 is made up of urban members from cities such as Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Peel, York and Durham. Each deal with Code 4 call-volumes that would generate annual multi-million dollar marginal cost impacts (i.e. fuel, medical supplies, firefighter injury downtime, and added training costs) for their respective Fire Services. Million dollar impacts could result for Fire Services associated with other moderate-sized AMEMSO urban EMS services.
On behalf of the OPSEU Paramedics proudly serving your communities,
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
1. AMEMSO contracted the study referenced in this letter. In 2012, the organization changed its name to the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs (OAPC)
By: Rachel Mendleson News reporter, Published on Tue Jul 07 2015
The perennial turf war between firefighters and paramedics is heating up again, with a new proposal from the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) for firefighters to perform more medical interventions.