B.C. first responders get easier access to mental health support
Labour Minister Harry Bains announced legislative amendments on April 11 that will allow first responders, sheriffs and correctional officers who experience job-related trauma and are diagnosed with a mental disorder to get assistance without providing proof that the injury was related to their work.
"These changes are about fairness and support for workers who put their lives on the line," Bains said in a press release.
"They should not have the added stress of having to prove that their disorder is work related, in order to receive support and compensation."
The proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act will be introduced this week and, if approved by the legislature, will add PTSD and other mental disorders to a recognized list of presumptive conditions associated with specific types of jobs.
For example, the proposed amendments will extend existing cancer presumptions for municipal firefighters to include all federal firefighters on military bases, recognizing they may be exposed to dangerous substances and frequently assist municipalities at off-base incidents.
A group representing firefighters in Vancouver applauded the move, saying in a statement that the amendments are especially timely as crews respond to a rising number of overdoses in the ongoing opioid crisis.
"It's incredibly significant to have the provincial government recognize this," said Robert Weeks of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters.
The changes have been sought for a long time by groups advocating for injured workers.
Former paramedic Lisa Jennings has been pushing for better support for first responders since 2014, when she set up the group You Are Not Alone PTSD B.C. Jennings's life fell apart after a PTSD-triggering incident on the job that year.
She said she is thrilled by the news.
"Now our first responders in B.C. will no longer have to be re-traumatized to prove what medical science has shown to be fact," she told the CBC.
Jennings says she knows of eight suicides since January, all but three involving people who were denied mental health injury claims.
"There is a shelf life on people in this job." There is a PTSD epidemic among emergency first responders and so far, they get very little support.<br><br>For the full story, watch 'After the Sirens' at 9 pm on CBC or online now: <a href="https://t.co/ZHq5VX586H">https://t.co/ZHq5VX586H</a> <a href="https://t.co/GiZPMxOtZl">pic.twitter.com/GiZPMxOtZl</a>—@cbcdocs
With files from Canadian Press