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Editorial: Praise for support to Alberta first responders

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The Government of Alberta has awarded $1.5 million in grants through its Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders (SPHFR) program.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1.5 million in grants through its Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders (SPHFR) program.

The program is designed to help strengthen the mental health of first responders struggling with trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This funding has enabled organizations like the Alberta Critical Incident Advisory Council (ACIAC) to expand their network to over 3,000 trained colleagues in 170 organizations, providing critical support and recovery services to first responders suffering from ongoing trauma.

These funds are desperately needed, and PTSI continues to have a significant impact on the health of first responders. Over the years, work-related trauma has been one of the leading reasons for first responders to take injury leave.

According to the Alberta Municipal Health and Safety Association, WCB recorded 685 claims from first responders related to post-traumatic stress disorder between 2015 and 2019. However, during the pandemic, the number of claims skyrocketed, and in 2021, WCB Alberta accepted 565 claims from first responders for psychological injuries.

This is all not surprising, because when you deal with the worst things over many years like our first responders do, the toll adds up. Without strong support programs, especially from peers, these injuries can linger for decades.

It's good to see the provincial government taking action on this issue, especially given the shortage of paramedics and other first responders across Alberta. The easiest way to get more first responders on the job is to give the ones you already have the support they need to get back to work.

These considerations aside, it is a powerful gesture of human compassion for those who risk their lives and mental health for us every day.

We would like to thank all first responders on site for their services.