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.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, joined by Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi, revealed details of the Supporting Ontario First Responders Act at Queen's Park on Thursday.
The proposed legislation would "provide a sense of security for our first responders," Flynn told reporters.
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"Psychological injuries provide more of a challenge," the labour minister said. "I'm bringing forward a plan that's going to address those challenges."
Flynn acknowledged that filing a claim through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is an evidence-based and onerous process that poses real challenges for first responders, who are forced to relive the trauma they've experienced.
He said the new law would recognize that PTSD "is a result of the worker's employment" and claims will be "automatically approved without that process."
Police officers, paramedics, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, correctional workers and First Nations emergency response teams will all be included under the legislation, the minister said.
There will also be grants available to understand triggers, a website for patients and an advertising campaign aimed at increasing awareness and reducing the stigma associated with PTSD.
It's all part of a comprehensive strategy originally pushed multiple times by New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo.
"It takes a very strong, sensible and courageous person to step forward and get that help," said Flynn. "What we need to ensure is that people don't get PTSD in the first place."
Naqvi said bringing this motion forward is "absolutely necessary and absolutely the right thing to do" because first responders often experience scenes "none of us should ever see or experience."
In reference to first responders, Naqvi added "too many tragedies [occur] when they felt that they had nowhere to turn for help."
Ontario's labour minister previously said he wants the province to be a leader in helping people with PTSD.
More details on funding for PTSD assistance could be made available in next week's provincial budget announcement.