March 29, 2019 1:40 pm
Updated: March 31, 2019 5:43 pm

Ontario government to fund new, comprehensive mental health program for provincial police officers

Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Sylvia Jones, (centre) announced the details of a new mental health supports program for OPP officers on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Barrie, Ont.

Hannah Jackson / Global News
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The provincial government of Ontario will be funding a new, comprehensive mental health program for all active and retired members of the Ontario Provincial Police.

At the Ontario Provincial Police Association head office in Barrie, Ont., Friday morning, the province’s minister of community safety and correctional services, Sylvia Jones, announced the government has committed to fully funding a new program to be run by the OPPA.

Since 2012, the police force has lost more than a dozen members to suicide.

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READ MORE: OPP announces review, enhancement to mental health strategy following member suicides

“The OPP is facing a mental health crisis, and this government must step up to the plate,” Jones said. “OPP officers have always had our back. Under the leadership of Premier Ford, you have a government that has yours.”

The new program will feature an integrated emergency network designed to provide a one-stop approach to care so individuals can be connected to the most appropriate mental health supports and services as easily and quickly as possible.

The program plans to offer OPP members and their families a confidential and personalized experience from beginning to end with continuous support and guidance throughout the process.

WATCH (Aug. 30, 2018): OPP announce a review of mental health supports

The new program will also include access to employee and family assistance programs, children and seniors-focused support services, telehealth support and crisis intervention specialists such as registered nurses or psychiatrists and mental health treatment facilities.

According to Jones, procurement will be left to the OPPA through a process that follows government-approved guidelines. That process is set to begin in the near future, with an anticipated launch date to be announced in the coming months.

“The next step is a competitive tendering process, to choose a provider of these services. Rob (Jamieson, OPP president) and I look forward to sharing more details, including costs and timelines, after that process unfolds,” Jones said. “But you can be assured that this is a priority for our government, and we plan to move quickly.”

Jones says that until the service provider has been chosen, the province does not know how much the new program will cost.

READ MORE: Widow of OPP officer shares story of heartbreaking loss to give strength to others

They do, however, know what the program will look like.

According to Jamieson, the new program has taken several months to conceptualize and create.

“This new plan will enhance all currently available resources and provide our members with the support that they need and expect,” Jamieson said. “With this funding announcement, the provincial government has made a clear commitment to the mental health of our members by allowing us to deliver an integrated and comprehensive mental health program to our active and retired civilian and uniformed members, as well as their families.”

Jamieson says that while resources have been available to members, they have not adequately addressed the mental health crisis occurring across the province.

“During the past year, the tragedy of losing several members to suicide has made all of us reflect and examine how we as an association can offer additional support to our members and their families, both on a proactive basis and in times of crisis. The status quo simply cannot continue,” Jamieson said. “The world has changed, and mental health treatment in our membership has not kept pace with the ever-changing demands of policing in the 21st century.”

READ MORE: Ontario’s chief coroner to launch review police suicides in 2018

According to Jamieson, they hope to roll out the new program to members as soon as possible.

“Today’s announcement represents the start of the journey. Much work remains. Through collaborative effort with all stakeholders and a renewed focus on the health and well-being of our members, we aim to deliver this comprehensive and integrated wellness program as soon as possible.”

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