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Mental health a ‘priority’ for first responders with new funding

Studies show EMS and first responders are at a higher risk for developing mental health disorders.
Studies show EMS and first responders are at a higher risk for developing mental health disorders. File / Government of Saskatchewan

The province announced $250,000 in funding for Saskatchewan paramedics and first-responders to be used for mental health and addictions programming.

“We have made it a health system priority to improve mental health services for all Saskatchewan citizens, including paramedics,” Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit said.

Studies show that first responders have a higher risk of developing mental health disorders.

A study by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety and Treatment (CIPSRT), involving 6,000 emergency responders, showed 44.5 per cent had symptoms “consistent with one or more mental disorder” compared with 10.5 per cent of the general population.

READ MORE: Emergency workers at higher risk for mental health disorders: survey

“We recognize that EMS providers and volunteer medical first responders are on the frontlines of medical care and are exposed to a high number of stressful situations. This funding will help to set up supports that best address their mental health needs,” Ottenbreit said.

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The funding was announced on May 7 by Ottenbriet during Mental Health Week, which runs May 6-12, at the Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Association’s annual convention in Saskatoon.

The funding will be used by the Saskatchewan Health Authority to develop a program that “provides ongoing mental health supports for both public and private emergency medical services providers throughout the province,” according to the government.

“As we grow into one provincial EMS entity, we will promote a culture that supports, recognizes, and responds effectively to colleagues in need,” said Corey Miller, vice-president of provincial programs for the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

“This investment by the Ministry of Health will allow us to create and train peer support and critical incident teams within EMS as well as offer resiliency-based education. We are excited to move forward with our plans to strengthen our paramedics’ resiliency on a day-to-day basis and into the future of EMS in Saskatchewan.”

Saskatchewan’s 10-year Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan continue to guide and set priority areas for mental health and addictions investments in Saskatchewan.

In the 2019-20 provincial budget, Ministry of Health funding for mental health and addictions increased by nearly $30 million to a record total of $402 million.

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