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OPSB applauds provincial PTSD efforts

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

Rick Fraracci

Rick Fraracci

Rick Fraracci likes the direction the province is moving when it comes to dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for first responders.

During an Orillia Police Services Board meeting this week, Fraracci applauded moves by the province to formally recognize the effects PTSD can have on firefighters, paramedics and police officers and its plans to improve the system.

"We have made a significant amount of traction in the past three years," said Fraracci, a retired police officer, who has sat on a number of provincial boards relating to policing over the years.

"I've been approached by senior police officers, who I had no idea suffered from PTSD."

In a letter to the board, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn outlines the province's Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act that passed third and final reading at Queen's Park last year.

"These changes will positively impact many lives across the province, and will provide our 73,000 first responders and their families some peace of mind," Flynn wrote.

"Over the last decade there has been an increased awareness of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. We know PTSD can be serious and debilitating, and that first responders are at least twice as likely as the general population to suffer from PTSD."

According to Flynn, the new act will also provide a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related, and thereby, allow for faster access to WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) benefits, resources and the timely treatment needed to heal and return to work safely.

The new law also amends the Ministry of Labour Act to allow the ministry to collect information about an employer's plans to prevent PTSD and authorizes the minister to publish those plans.

"Collecting this information is intended to encourage the development of prevention plans and assess progress in the prevention of PTSD in these workplaces," Flynn wrote. "It will also serve to highlight gaps and inform future prevention initiatives."

Mayor Steve Clarke noted his brother Todd was a long-time OPP officer and now serves with the Ontario Fire Marshal's office where he's involved with the PTSD file as it relates to firefighters.

"He was on the job (OPP) for 15 years and some of things you see are quite horrific," Clarke said. "It's nice to see the province working in collaboration with the OPP on PTSD."

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