The Alberta Government has handed out a total of $1.5 million in grants to 13 different non-profit organizations and six researchers through the Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders (SPHIFR) program.

50 services and applied research projects have been given $6 million since the start of the grant program. 

The grants to the organizations provide first responders and emergency workers who are dealing with or at risk of post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSIs), with services to help manage their injuries.

As for the investments in research, it will help improve treatment and prevention programs to aid in improving outcomes for Alberta’s first responders.

“Alberta’s first responders and emergency workers protect our lives and communities every day, often at a cost to their mental health and well-being. These grants will help alleviate some of the suffering first responders and emergency workers living with post-traumatic stress injuries face by supporting improved services and valuable applied research,” said Matt Jones, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade in an Alberta News media release.

Between the years of 2019 and 2023, Alberta saw a total of 1,418 Workers Compensation Board claims with PTSI coming from first responders. The claims totalled a cost of $227 million.

Paramedics, firefighters, police officers, peace officers, and correctional workers are among the most at risk of suffering PTSI in their lines of work.

“We are deeply grateful for the dedicated service of frontline workers and other emergency responders. Witnessing traumatic events can be difficult for anyone. If you are struggling, reach out to one of the organizations receiving this funding, or to any of our mental health supports across the province,” said Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction in an Alberta media release.

Some of the services SPHIFR covers are resilience training for workers and caregivers, drop-in support groups for first responders, and peer support. Additionally, they also research topics like identifying stressors in emergency dispatchers and devolving reintegration programs for first responders who are returning to work after suffering from PTSI.

“We are deeply thankful for the Government of Alberta’s ongoing support of the Alberta Critical Incident Peer Network, which has been instrumental in enhancing the mental health of our first responders. This funding has allowed us to expand our network to over 3,000 trained peers across 170 organizations, providing vital support and recovery services. The proof of its impact is in the strength and readiness of first responders. We’re grateful for a partnership that continues to make a real difference in helping those who keep the public safe,” said Gregg Schaalje and Matthew McKeage, directors of the Alberta Critical Incident Advisory Council, in a media release.

Some of the jobs that fall under first responders in Alberta include 7,500 police officers, 9,400 paramedics, and 14,000 full-time, part-time, casual and volunteer firefighters.

The grant program applications for the latest intake close on May 27.

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