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First Responder Mental Health Needs
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The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) continues to ask the government for funding to support interim measures to improve access to mental health care and prevention programs. 


There are three important points that must be considered when addressing first responder mental health: 


  1. PTSD is not the only mental health issue first responders face. Suicide, depression, alcohol abuse,  and  post-traumatic  stress symptoms  are  also prevalent.  We  must prevent  and  reduce these. 
  2. The impact of reducing stigma and promoting understanding of mental health and illness is that people try to get help. What happens when they try to get help? They may run into long wait times or high costs to get help. 
  3. Both prevention and treatment are equally important.Resilience training for prevention as well as timely and appropriate treatment and recovery are both needed. What can be done in the short term.


As part of the 2018 budget consultation submission, CAFC asked the federal government to consider the following: 


  1. Put the “Road to Mental Health Readiness Program” from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and DND in fire departments, free of charge, immediately to help prevent the development of mental health issues. Currently, MHCC makes this available on a cost recovery basis. This can be done for $2.5 million.  
  2. Implement the Mental Health Innovation Fund to fund innovations that expedite access to care for a larger number of Canadians, which will also help First Responders. This is also the ask of 16 national health organizations making up the Canadian Alliance of Mental Health and Mental Illness in Mental Health Now! $100M 


The CAFC is pleased to be part of the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) which received $20 million over 5 years for research into PTSD incidence reduction and $10 million over 5 years to develop an internet based cognitive behavior therapy application. This included a pilot of $173,000 to provide free Road to Mental Health Resilience Training to a limited number of fire departments. 


Now that we have received the funds through CIPSRT and the R2MR pilot has launched, we are asking the government to optimize the use of Budget 2018's $30M for Public Safety Mental Health. As the problem has already been established through previous research, we hope that they will guide the money towards the implementation of science projects that make intervention accessible in new, innovative, cost effective and appropriate ways to a large number of  First Responders.


As part of the 2019 budget consultation submission, CAFC asked the following:

  •  That the government and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment adjust the planned use of the $30M in funding to:
  1. adapt and implement internet based cognitive behaviour therapy so that it is nationally available to first responders (rather than develop and pilot);
  2. adapt and test innovative delivery models that expedite access to care for first responders (rather than study the incidence);
  3. use a portion of the funds to implement and test a resilience training program in all fire departments. 

Our next steps 

Working with and through the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment, CAFC will be looking to ensure that 

  1. The CIPSRT funding is directed in a manner that optimizes impact on the first responder community. We are at the table and ready to help.
  2. That from the $20M funding allocated, that working together, CIPSRT, CIHR, DND, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada find ways to implement and evaluate R2MR or even an equivalent resilience training for all fire department in the country.

Learn more about our partners at these links: CIPSRT, CIHR, DND, MHCC.



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