Sandy Ranger, a paramedic in Parksville stands with Bruce Honeyman, advanced care paramedic in Victoria, on the steps of the legislature Wednesday, where Minister Harry Bains announced amendments to legislation that would eliminate barriers for first responders to access compensation for mental trauma. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

B.C. first responders to get better mental health support

Labour Minister Harry Bains to introduce legislation adding PTSD as ‘presumptive condition’

First responders in B.C. will now have greater access to services and compensation to treat mental health and trauma, Labour Minister Harry Bains announced Wednesday.

Bains will introduce amendments to the Workers Compensation Act, that, if passed, will add post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental injuries to a list of “presumptive conditions” no longer requiring workers to prove their disease or disorder is work-related.

RELATED: B.C. paramedics focus of PTSD documentary

“These are the people … who are the first at crash sites to save and treat victims, who put their lives on the line to battle raging house and building fires, are the first to respond to all kinds of horrific crimes,” Bains said on the steps of the B.C. legislature.

Mental health injuries can be just as devastating as physical ones, he said, and this is especially true for first responders, sheriffs and correctional workers.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy called the changes “long overdue.”

Currently, two types of work-related mental disorders are recognized: a reaction to one or more traumatic events at work, and a reaction primarily caused by significant work-related stressors, such as bullying or harassment.

Workers have to prove their claim is valid by establishing that their injury was caused by their employment, in addition to being diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

RELATED: Overdose crisis takes emotional toll on local paramedics

Cameron Eby, provincial president of Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., called the announcement “a great start” adding that he hopes to see dispatchers and emergency call takers included in the new guidelines as well.

“We’re involved in transporting the patients so there’s a bit of a longer contact and more of an intimate contact with patients in their time of need, and that has a profound effect on the paramedics doing that work,” he said.

Eby pointed out legislation like this helps break down the barriers and the stigma around PTSD and other mental health injuries.

The opioid crisis, he said, was likely a contributing factor in the province’s move to enhance support.

“I’ve heard from those paramedics that it’s taking a toll on them when they have to see the same patients over and over again,” he explained. “There’s an additional emotional attachment to those situations.”

The proposed amendments will specifically apply to firefighters, police, paramedics, sheriffs, and correctional officers.

Several other provinces already have similar legislation in place, including Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Yukon.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Chilliwack Chiefs erase three goal deficit in overtime win

Down 3-0 to the Cowichan Capitals, the Chiefs came back to win 4-3 in the BCHL Showcase match.

Chilliwack man feeling helpless about puppy stolen while at church

Evidence of neighbour trespassing and accusing him of dog neglect not enough for RCMP

UPDATE: Missing Chilliwack man has been found

Chilliwack RCMP is thanking the public for keeping an eye out

UPDATED: Chilliwack councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with RCMP taken at special meeting of council

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Most Read