Ottawa’s police chief says the number of workplace safety claims related to “traumatic events” has increased five-fold since Ontario’s First Responders Act came into effect in April of last year.
The 2016 law presumes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a work-related injury for first responders, allowing for faster access to Workplace Safety and Insurance Bureau benefits for police, paramedics and firefighters.
Chief Charles Bordeleau revealed at a meeting of the human resources committee of the Ottawa Police Services Board Monday that the number of claims from police officers in this city quintupled from four in 2015 to 20 in 2016.
“I think we knew when the legislation came in we would see those numbers increase, which is a good thing because we want people to declare and we want people to get the help they need,” he told the committee.
Bordeleau said the police service is working on creating a culture that encourages employees to come forward if they have mental health problems. He said the latest figures don’t necessarily represent PTSD-related claims exclusively, but could involve other mental health issues that fall under the legislation.
The Ottawa Police Assocation says PTSD claims were mainly covered under long-term disability insurance before the law changed how the WSIB treated those claims.
The chief was speaking during a meeting to approve a PTSD prevention plan, which now heads to the next full meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board later this month.
Prevention vs. mitigation
The prevention plan is required under the new provincial law. The chief expressed some reluctance about the name of the plan, though he agreed with its intention.
“You can’t prevent PTSD, you want to do things to mitigate it,” Bordeleau said after the meeting. “It’s just the nature of the business that policing is in: we go to traumatic incidents.”