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Service dog program supporting victims of tragedy in central, northern Sask.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says a new partnership with a service dog program was inspired by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy on April 6, 2018.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says a new partnership with a service dog program was inspired by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy on April 6, 2018. Devon Latchuk / Global News

Victims of crime and tragedy living in central and northern Saskatchewan now have access to another form of support.

A new service dog program is a partnership between the province’s health authority and Gateway Regional Victim Services (GRVS), a non-profit organization funded by the Ministry of Justice.

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Accredited victim services facility dog Quinn is a Labrador-golden retriever cross that will live with a GRVS-trained facility dog handler within the service area.

The two-year-old dog has been intensively trained through the Alberta-based organization Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society to ease the effects of trauma.

Quinn is the first Dogs with Wings assistance dog placed in Saskatchewan.

“Quinn can be present at the various stages of a critical situation providing emotional support,” GRVS coordinator Carol Wittal said in a press release.

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“This can be at the scene of the initial crisis or tragic event, at client interactions when victims are being interviewed and at criminal court when victims have to testify.”

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said the new partnership was inspired by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. The collision between the team’s bus and a semi-trailer on April 6, 2018, claimed the lives of 16 players and staff near Tisdale. Thirteen others were injured.

“The tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos demonstrated the importance of having a variety of supports available for people involved in a traumatic event. This includes those directly involved in the event, family members, friends, and the entire community,” SHA COO Suann Laurent said in a statement.

“Quinn will support requests from the SHA, victims of reported or unreported crime, victims of traumatic events, and other at-risk patients/clients. The emphasis is on individuals who are most vulnerable, for example: child abuse victims, domestic violence victims, sexual assault victims, seniors who are victims of illegal home entry.”

GRVS is a police-based program covering RCMP detachment areas in Big River, Blaine Lake, Green Lake, Loon Lake, Meadow Lake, Pierceland, Prince Albert, Rosthern, Shellbrook, Spiritwood and Wakaw, as well as 17 Cree/First Nations.

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-With files from Nicole Stillger