Committee votes unanimously to move N.B. PTSD bill forward

In a non-partisan show of support, it took MLA's from both sides of government just minutes to send a bill that would see faster treatment for those suffering from PTSD to the next step. Global' s Laura Brown has more.

FREDERICTON – A bill that could speed up treatment for first responders suffering from PTSD has stepped closer to becoming a reality.

Bill 15 would amend the Workers’ Compensation Act to presume that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is related to the workplace unless proven otherwise.

The amendment would help speed up treatment for people who need it.

On Wednesday, Conservative and Liberal MLAs sitting on the law amendments committee put politics aside and voted unanimously to have the bill legally reviewed.

They also voted to launch a public consultation process, through the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.

The bill was originally introduced by  MLA Ross Wetmore, who shared his personal reasons why he felt it is so important.

“I have family members that are first responders. Also, a few years ago, I had one of my constituents who was a paramedic commit suicide,” he said.

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“It was brought forward to me by a number of people that just didn’t feel that they could comfortably get the diagnosis and treatment for PTSD.”

Wetmore says there has been a report brought forward looking at the cost of a bill like this. But when asked if he was concerned about the bill being a costly venture:

“I think you should be asking the families of the first responders who have committed suicide and ask them if they think this is a worthy bill to bring forward and if we can afford it.”

Liberal MLA Lisa Harris called it a “major bill.”

“It’s an issue that’s affected so many people and it’s going to continue to affect so many New Brunswickers,” she said. “I think to do our due-diligence with this is most important and that’s why the consultation process is essential.”

It is unclear what this bill could cost taxpayers, potentially at the municipal level of government.

But Ambulance New Brunswick said they’re supportive of the bill.

“Anything that helps first responders gain access to the right supports faster is encouraging news from our perspective,” said spokesperson Tracy Bell.

Al Mitton, president of the Moncton Firefighters’ Association, said in an earlier interview with Global News, that the bill could save lives.

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“We’ve experienced two suicides in our department as well as retirements as a result of PTSD,” he said. “Unfortunately there are hoops you have to jump through, so treatment is delayed.”

Wetmore asked that dates be set for the consultation process over the next two weeks.

The widow of one of three RCMP officers who were shot and killed last June in Moncton put her support behind the bill last month through a letter to Brian Gallant.

Angela Gevaudan’s husband, Cst. Fabrice Gevaudan, was killed in Moncton’s north end on June 4.

In a letter addressed to Gallant, Gevaudan shared her personal struggles with PTSD following her husband’s death.

She also outlined the importance of helping first responders get quick treatment for PTSD.

“The first responders of this province deserve to be supported by their government in quantifiable ways and this is one of them,” she wrote.

“Bill 15 will give first responders the time and breathing room they require to be able to work through their PTSD and once again become contributing members of the community.”