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Paramedics support bill that would add mental health support

Sudbury paramedic Rick Sasseville was on his way to Toronto Monday to throw his support behind Bill 2, an act that amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency responders.
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Dozens of paramedics will be in Toronto Tuesday to support Bill 2, an act that amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency responders. File photo.
Sudbury paramedic Rick Sasseville was on his way to Toronto Monday to throw his support behind Bill 2, an act that amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency responders.

The bill, which cleared first reading on July 7, 2014, would allow emergency response workers – including police officers, firefighters and paramedics – to file claims through the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If an emergency response worker suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the disorder is presumed to be an occupational disease that occurs due to the nature of the worker’s employment as an emergency response worker, unless the contrary is shown,” the bill says.

Sasseville, who is the northern representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) ambulance committee of Ontario, will join dozens of his colleagues at Queen's Park May 5 to convince MPPs to pass Bill 2.

“The type of the work we do as paramedics, as front-line responders, is quite taxing. It can be ultimately injurious to the brain,” Sasseville said. “We see people at their worst, and we see it every day.”

Sasseville said his colleagues have typically dealt with mental distress on the job through peer support, but if passed, the bill would make it easier for paramedics and other first responders to seek out professional help.

The bill should go to committee in the coming months, Sasseville said.

Jonathan Migneault

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