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Nova Scotia improving access to PTSD benefits

Correctional officers, nurses among those eligible for presumptive benefits
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The government of Nova Scotia is making it easier for front-line and emergency response workers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to access benefits.

Amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act introduced on Sept. 25 will ensure covered workers no longer have to prove their PTSD diagnosis was caused by a workplace incident. 

“Our front-line and emergency response workers have often witnessed great tragedy, sadness, and loss when helping those in need,” said Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Labi Kousoulis. “We want to make it easier for those who suffer from PTSD to access benefits and treatment. These changes are a step in the right direction.” 

During the summer, government spoke with employees and employers about barriers to coverage and treatment for workers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The consultation involved nurses, first responders, correctional services, paramedics, psychiatrists, health sector workers and other organizations. Feedback helped shape the amendments and will inform the upcoming regulations, the provincial government said. 

“I’m pleased that the Nova Scotia government has listened to the concerns of front line and emergency response workers and is addressing them through these amendments,” said Vince Savoia, founder and executive director, Tema Conter Memorial Trust. “This will help ensure police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other frontline workers get the care they need when they need it.” 

While occupational stress due to traumatic events, including PTSD, has always been covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act, for all workers, it currently requires covered workers to prove their diagnosis is a direct result of a workplace incident. Some PTSD sufferers avoid getting help because of this process. 

The proposed amendments will clarify that PTSD is presumed to be a result of an incident during employment and define who is eligible for presumptive PTSD benefits. This will include police, paid and volunteer firefighters, paramedics, nurses, continuing care assistants, 911 and emergency dispatch workers, and provincial and federal correctional officers with workers’ compensation coverage. 

The amendments will take effect one year from royal assent to allow time for government to work with stakeholders to develop the supporting regulations. 

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