Firefighters, police and paramedics could soon get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder without having to prove it was caused by incidents on the job.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn strongly hinted Monday that legislation breaking down barriers to treatment in a field plagued by suicides will be introduced after MPPs return from their winter break in mid-February.
“Certainly it leans that way, and that’s the type of thing we’ve been looking at,” he told reporters after a speech to the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association.
More help is needed to get first responders to get help as soon as possible, preventing complications and higher costs later if medical care is delayed, said Carmen Santoro, president of the OPFFA.
“This is the first step in, hopefully, immediate and quick care for our members.”
The legislation would come seven years after New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo first proposed a private member’s bill that would add PTSD to the list of conditions, such as cancers for firefighters, recognized as a workplace illness.
That means first responders would no longer have to prove their PTSD was triggered by tragic situations they see on the job, something that can be difficult to do. Alberta and Manitoba have already recognized PTSD as a workplace illnesses.
“We’re behind on this and we’re counting on the government coming through,” DiNovo said Monday, saying it has been “highly insulting” to first responders to have to prove their troubles began on the job.
As part of the effort, Ontario will also launch a $300,000 advertising campaign on radio and digital media in March to boost awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and to ease the stigma it carries.
They’re aimed at prevention in the workplace for first responders and changing the culture that can lead some to brush off any symptoms.
“The fear of being perceived as weak, as being damaged or ashamed leaves many to suffer alone,” Flynn said in his speech to dozens of firefighters from across the province at a health and safety seminar.
“We want the general public to understand what you face on a daily basis,” he added. “It’s only appropriate for us to have your back.”