Ontario introducing legislation to support first responders with PTSD

The government of Ontario has announced it is introducing legislation that would create a presumption that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed in first responders is work-related. This would lead to faster access to resources and treatment, said the government.
“Given all that we ask of our first responders, it is only fair that we support them when they need us most," said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn. "This legislation will give first responders and those who work in corrections the peace of mind they deserve, and our prevention, resiliency and research initiatives will round out a comprehensive PTSD approach we can all be proud of and that will protect the brave men and women who we entrust with keeping us safe and secure.”

Evidence shows that first responders are at least twice as likely compared to the general population to suffer PTSD, due to the risk of routine exposure to traumatic stressors, said the government.

If passed, the Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), 2016, would allow faster access to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits and timely treatment, ultimately supporting positive recovery outcomes by:

•once diagnosed with PTSD, expediting the claims process to be eligible for WSIB benefits
•removing the need to prove a causal link between PTSD and a workplace event
•requiring employers to implement PTSD prevention plans within the workplace.

The proposed presumption would apply to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, workers in correctional institutions and secure youth justice facilities, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services, and First Nations emergency response teams.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association applauded the announcement.

"Uniform officers and civilian police personnel are our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers and protectors of our communities. Above all else, they are human-beings. They often suffer from injuries not easily seen and need help," said Rob Jamieson, president of the OPP Association. "We are pleased that the government is moving forward with legislation to address one of the most important issues facing law enforcement personnel today."

This legislation is the next step in the government's strategy to prevent or mitigate the risk of PTSD and provide first responders with faster access to treatment and the information they need to stay healthy.

The proposed legislation would apply to more than 73,000 first responders in Ontario.