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RCMP scraps peer support program for members with PTSD


RCMP scraps peer support program for members with PTSD

Global News : Friday, April 27, 2012 7:27 PM

The RCMP has decided to eliminate an internal support program that helps members deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The news comes just days after RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told Global National correspondent Shirlee Engel that the initiative was all officers needed.

"You know, we can always do better, but I'm pretty happy with how our member assistance program and our health programs address that," Paulson said Tuesday.

But Friday, it was announced within the police force that the program was being cut as part of the deficit reduction plan.

Hundreds of RCMP members are quietly suffering with PTSD and unable to work. They stay silent out of fears they will be ridiculed and mocked by colleagues.

Staff Sgt. Mike Casault offers help through member assistance. He is getting calls from Mounties who worry the only help they'll have is in the form of a 1-800 number through Health Canada.

"My fear is members are going to sit back and suffer in silence, because they're comfortable with the existing program – the peer-to-peer – and sometimes they're speaking with people they know and they trust," says Casault, who emphasizes officers need that trust factor, and talking to a stranger on the phone won't be beneficial.

"I've received several emails and calls from members who said 'I'm not going to be calling.'"

It's not just peer support that's disappearing. Other proposed cuts over the next two years include moving Mounties into the provincial health care system. Their supplemental care will be through an outside insurance company.

The brass also wants officers to earn their sick days, instead of getting as much leave as they need.

The moves come on the heels of the federal government slashing $195 million over three years out of the RCMP's budget.

"If it detrimentally impacts our front line officers, as a general rule, I don't agree with it. I have seen nothing here that would detrimentally affect the front line officers," said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in Winnipeg on Friday.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation wants the RCMP to reveal how much sick leave for PTSD is costing Canadians.

"I think the whole sick leave issue has gotten away from them, and I think this is a strong initiative to get it under control again," Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says.

Our Duty, a citizens advocacy group, warns these cuts will backfire, and the force shouldn't target incentives and supports for police to do their dangerous work.

Jeff Rose-Martland of Our Duty, says, "These changes are going to be seriously destructive to RCMP morale. It's going to send them looking for help from outsiders instead of within the force. It's going to cause resentment between members."

He adds, "You have a situation – if this goes forward – where a Mountie in B.C. may not be getting the same medical care as a Mountie who served in Nunavut."

"We owe them a great level of care."

Mounties tell Global News the RCMP should adopt a program similar to the Canadian Forces: by investing money in helping members deal with PTSD, they can return to work faster, instead of languishing on disability.

The RCMP declined Global's request for an interview, but did say all members will continue to receive timely care and confidential access to counselling.

The organization also said this is an opportunity for the force to focus on its core mandate and allow professionals to deliver "non-core administrative functions."

With files from Global National's Shirlee Engel
© Shaw Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.


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