The Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety
An initiative of the University of Regina Office Of The Vice-President (Research)

Operational Experience

Sharing case studies, best practices, and guidelines for the benefit public safety communities

As part of the Collaborative Center for Justice and Safety (CCJS) commitment to share case studies, lessons learned, guidelines and reports of broad interest to the public safety community, we are pleased to provide access to a recent case study prepared by Strathcona County.

See Contact Us for request information regarding case studies.

Case Studies

An Integrated Approach to Mental Health in First Responders and Other Public Safety Personnel: A Five-Phase Plan

Strathcona County Emergency Services,  Alberta, Canada

Please click here to view the full report. 

To view the "Integrated Approach to Mental Health in First Responders" model click here

Executive Summary

From January 2012 through August 2013 Strathcona County, an integrated fire and EMS service, observed an increase in lost hours and costs due to mental illness; including Operational Stress Injuries. Throughout this time frame, mental health resources (i.e., assessment and treatment) were predominantly accessible through third-party providers, such as the Workers’ Compensation Board and benefits carriers. It became evident that prompt access to providers and resources with the expertise in addressing mental health issues, specifically in emergency services personnel, was a barrier. Process gaps, such as inaccurate diagnoses and a lack of evidence-based treatments plans, were identified. These gaps resulted in return to work barriers, lengthy absences from work and a negative impact on staff and their families in terms of overall quality of life.
Strathcona County Disability Management explored service standards and programs to address these issues in an effort to apply best practices with regards to mental health. Resistance, resiliency and recovery are supported through a number of programs and resources. These include: Disability Management, prompt access to evidence-based care and a culturally competent provider, Peer Support (including Critical Incident Stress Management), a Chaplaincy, and Employee and Family Assistance programming, as well as access to counselling services through extended health care benefits and third- party providers.
Advancements made to date have prompted significant cultural change with respect to stigma reduction and increasing help-seeking behavior. Further, costs associated with WCB-AB claims due to Occupational Stress Injury (OSI) were reduced to zero in 2015, in 2016, and in 2017 to date. Given the success of the programmatic changes, Strathcona County was invited to showcase their change processes for a broader public safety community.