Important changes and new legislation to help First Responders
Several weeks ago, we took part in a week-long training session for Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR), a program that seeks to decrease stigma and increase resilience and mental health training for first responder organizations. This was the first R2MR training for paramedic services in Canada, and we were happy to take part. We met several passionate, hard-working First Responders like paramedic Natalie Harris, who have been amazing advocates for greater mental health support for those in her profession.
And their advocacy has been successful!
On April 5, 2016, the Ontario government voted unanimously to pass Bill 163: Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), 2016. This bill presumes that PTSD (as diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist) is a direct result of a first responder’s work duties; thereby, taking the onus off the first responder to have to prove that the development of PTSD was directly related to one specific workplace incident. The Act will also allow the Ministry of Labour to request PTSD prevention plans from employers.
Dr. Lisa Couperthwaite and I were invited by Natalie to attend the Ontario Legislative Assembly when the third reading of the bill was passed. Seeing each MPP, one by one, stand up and vote YES to the bill gave us goosebumps! It was amazing to see progress in how our First Responders are treated, and a personal win for us who are in contact with many of these brave people on a regular basis.
This is just the beginning of a conversation that we hope to continue, and we look forward to sharing more about our work with First Responders in future blogs. PTSD continues to be a growing topic of concern in the world, and we have to support those whose job it is to bravely go where few will venture, in order to save lives.