Thunder Bay

Ontario decides to give first responders workplace insurance coverage for PTSD

The president of the Superior North professional paramedics association says he's pleased the Ontario government unanimously passed legislation today that recognizes PTSD as a work-related illness.

First responders no longer have to prove that their PTSD is related to their job

Evidence shows that first responders are at least twice as likely compared to the general population to suffer from PTSD, due to the risk of frequent exposure to traumatic stressors, the province says.

The president of the Superior North professional paramedics association says he's pleased the Ontario government unanimously passed legislation today that recognizes PTSD as a work-related illness.

Under the new law, it will be easier, and quicker for paramedics, firefighters, and police officers to access treatment for mental health issues, Ryan Ross said.

"But it is a work in progress, and by no means is it going to be an overnight thing," he told CBC News.
Thunder Bay paramedic Ryan Ross says he is pleased new legislation will allow for faster access to WSIB benefits, resources and timely treatment for PTSD, but the "onus is also on us to be able to recognize that we need help and get out there and get it." (Jody Porter/CBC)

"Today was a good first step for everybody, making care available, but the onus is also on us to be able to recognize that we need help and get out there and get it."

Ross noted that paramedics have become more open about discussing mental health issues with their colleagues in the last few years.

"We have processes in place and people are more aware," he continued.

"If you see a coworker that's maybe showing some signs of post-traumatic stress disorder — or is maybe acting a little differently — they're more inclined to speak with them, or say something to a supervisor or try to get them into some care."

Under the old rules, first responders had to prove their PTSD was related to their job to be eligible for coverage under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

New legislation that assumes PTSD is work-related for first responders passed third and final reading by a vote of 96-to-0.

The government says first responders are at least twice as likely as the general population to suffer from PTSD, and that the condition results in more suicide attempts than all other anxiety disorders.

The NDP said it was "sad" that the new bill does not allow workers who have their claims rejected by the WSIB to re-open the claim.

with files from The Canadian Press

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