Ontario Improving Access to Best-in-Class Mental Health Supports for First Responders

Published on March 03, 2022

Ontario Improving Access to Best-in-Class Mental Health Supports for First Responders

The Ontario government is investing $1 million for Runnymede Healthcare Centre’s First Responders Post-Traumatic Stress Injury Rehabilitation Treatment and Assessment Centre. The new Centre would include up to two new facilities that will provide a comprehensive mental health rehabilitation program to first responders across the Greater Toronto Area affected by work-related stress or trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

”Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve relied on Ontario’s heroic first responders and nurses more than ever before,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We know it has taken a tremendous toll on them and it’s our duty to ensure that they have access to the best mental health care available. This centre is the first of its kind and will give our first responders the specialized, best-in-class treatment that they need and deserve.”

Ontario’s health care system does not currently provide mental health supports and treatments tailored to the unique needs of first responders. The new treatment centre located in Peel Region would serve first responders such as firefighters, paramedics, nurses and police officers with specialized services like assessments, intensive treatment and aftercare, as well as high quality care to first responders in need of substance use treatment. Other expected services include virtual care and 24/7 crisis support, as well as peer and navigation support towards recovery.

“Ontario’s first responders and nurses put their lives on the line to be there in our time of need, and just as they are there for us, we need to be there for them,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By investing in Runnymede Healthcare Centre’s wellness and rehabilitation project, we are improving access to the unique mental health supports our first responders may need in their journey to mental wellness and recovery.”

It is estimated that over 13,000 first responders suffer from PTSD, with that number projected to grow to over 16,000 by 2040. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the mental health challenges first responders face and enhanced the need to provide services that meet their unique needs. Over time, this project has the potential to be expanded provincially and include other frontline health care professionals to help improve access to safe and effective mental health supports across the province.

“With a steady increase in the number of first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress, it’s critical that we ensure our dedicated women and men on the frontlines have access to the highest quality mental health and addictions care that meets their unique needs,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This incredible project will provide a unique opportunity to enhance existing services and build on our commitment to creating an efficient and responsive mental health and addictions system that fully supports all Ontarians, including our dedicated first responders.”

“Sadly, we know that because of the challenging nature of the work first responders do every day protecting our communities, they experience a higher rate of PTSD and other work-related mental health issues, which is why we’ve made their mental health and well-being a priority,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “As we build a modern and connected mental health system for Ontario, we are committed to providing first responders with supports and resources tailored to the unique challenges they face.”

Peel Region has allocated 26 acres to support the future site of one of the new residential treatment facilities and Ontario is working with Runnymede Healthcare Centre to finalize the early stages of planning, including identifying programming, operational, space and funding needs. As part of this, work is underway to assess how else the project can help to address existing gaps in care, as well as the growing need for unique and targeted mental health and addictions supports for first responders.