A year after adopting PTSD prevention plan, Greater Sudbury Police still working to fill gaps

It’s been one year since the Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) adopted its post-traumatic stress disorder prevention plan. Dr. Rayudu Koka, a psychiatrist and a member of the GSPS board, says that’s been a good thing for officers.

Numerous immediate, ongoing support services available for Sudbury police officers and other staff

Greater Sudbury Police Services board CAO Sharon Baiden says the force is looking to be a leader in terms of treating its members dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

It's been one year since the Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) adopted its post-traumatic stress disorder prevention plan.

The plan was mandated for police forces across the province after Ontario's First Responders Act came into effect in 2016.

The law recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a work-related injury for first-responders including police, paramedics and firefighters. That allows for faster access to WSIB benefits.

Dr. Rayudu Koka, a psychiatrist and a member of the GSPS board, says that's been a good thing for officers.

Dr. Rayudu Koka, a psychiatrist and a member of the Greater Sudbury Police Services board, listens to discussion at this past Wednesday's GSPS board meeting. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC )

"I've seen the comprehensive services available for the officers and anybody else in our force, and I appreciate that we're coming up with these services for our men and women in our force," Koka said.

Koka notes the diagnosis isn't an easy one to make, and that mental health specialists are becoming increasingly sensitive to early signs of PTSD.

"They might not see the trauma for many years, then all of a sudden it surfaces sometimes," Koka said.

Filling the gaps

A report presented at the police services board meeting on Wednesday describes how the service is still working to fill gaps in terms of PTSD prevention and mental health.

It notes that high-risk sectors of the service include forensics, cybercrime, major crime, the tactical unit and traffic services.

Among recent efforts noted in the report, psychological benefits were increased to $1,000 year for full-time members in 2018, while the development of a "spiritual team" is ongoing.

Much of Sudbury Police's PTSD prevention strategy falls under the wider umbrella of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers a range of counselling services.

Sharon Baiden is the CAO of the Greater Sudbury Police Services board. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

The GSPS contracts its EAP to employee support services giant, ComPsych Limited. It provides support, guidance and counselling for anything from family and marriage problems, to gambling and substance addiction, to anxiety and depression.

"This is a service that's available to the member (of the police service), their spouse and their children," explains Sharon Baiden, the GSPS board's CAO. "They're plans that are very well-subscribed to, and they're totally confidential."

Career and personal support services are also available internally through human resources. The service employs a staff psychologist.

All new recruits receive "Road to Mental Readiness" training at the Ontario Police College.

Baiden adds the force's Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team is sometimes called in to "provide immediate support post-incident."

Koka says it's important for the GSPS and other police forces to become aware of the gaps that still exist when it comes to treating PTSD.

"On an ongoing basis, the (GSPS health and wellness) committee will be looking at what our service personnel needs [...] and whatever is brought to the board's attention, of course, we'll act on it to make sure the officers and service personnel are taken care of," Koka explained.


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