The Canadian province of Ontario has passed legislation that will recognise post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in more than 73,000 first responders, thereby allowing for faster access to benefits, resources and timely treatment.

The Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act includes a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related, leading to faster access to resources and treatment. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will process claims faster, the provincial government indicated, allowing first responders to get the help they need sooner.

The presumption applies to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, certain workers in correctional institutions and secure youth justice facilities, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services, and emergency response teams.

The legislation also allows the Minister of Labour to request and publish PTSD prevention plans from employers of workers who are covered by the presumption. This act is part of Ontario’s strategy to prevent or mitigate the risk of PTSD and provide first responders with faster access to treatment and the information they need to stay healthy.

Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), said it’s great news for all Ontario first responders. “We know these heroic individuals risk life and limb every working day to keep our communities safe. Now the government has finally woken up to the fact that first responders also put their emotional and mental well-being on the line,” he added.

The union leader applauded the activism by first responders and opposition politicians that led the Liberal government to take action. “Finally, the Liberals seem to have come to their senses, thanks in part to the media, who helped lay bare the PTSD crisis among first responders,” Thomas said.