The Runnymede Medical Centre is opening Canada’s first treatment centre directed towards first responders dealing with post-traumatic stress injuries.
The medical centre announced March 3 that Peel Region is allocating 26 acres of land in Mono Mills, Caledon, to build a 40-bed facility called the Runnymede Healthcare Centre for its First Responders Post Traumatic Stress Rehabilitation Treatment and Assessment Centre.
It will be a mental health rehabilitation centre for all first responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the trauma that first responders experience within a week is more than someone may experience within their life.
“First responders run in when everyone else runs out,” Pegg said. “The number of potentially traumatic scenes they attend to in one week may be more than what most people experience in their lifetime.”
He said there was a huge need for the specialized mental health support that would be offered at the centre, and it will make a difference in their lives and in the lives of their families.
The facility will be tied to a Toronto treatment centre at Runnymede in Toronto that will provide services for outpatient mental health, addiction, wellness, and back-to-work programs and services. The Peel centre will offer inpatient mental health and addiction residential treatment and two group homes that will offer a place of transition for those in treatment.
The federal and provincial governments are each providing $1 million in funding for the capital planning stage of the centre. Peel has allocated the land and Toronto seconded Deputy Fire Chief Tony Bavota to lead stakeholder consultation and advisor on the program development.
Arif Virani, Liberal MP for Parkdale, said the important initiative will benefit women and men in uniform across Canada.
“Throughout this pandemic, public safety personnel have been keeping us safe from COVID-19, working as first responders on the front lines,” he said. “They have done this selflessly, sometimes at great risk to themselves.”
He said the centre demonstrates the important work of looking after the mental health of women and men in uniform.
Firefighters, paramedics, medical personnel, police officers, and correction officers on the front lines face trauma within their professions daily. Recurrent traumatic events can have lasting effects on their overall well-being and can leave them vulnerable to post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) and other mental health conditions.
This issue has only worsened during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Theo Selles, a professor at the University of Guelph-Humber and an expert in PTSD and mental wellness, thinks the centre for first responders will be effective.
“It’s not just about rehabilitation, but it’s also about prevention,” he said. “So, I hope that they also have an educational component to it so that it’s not just treated after the fact but it also serves as a centre where professionals can come in and provide programs helping first responders be able to prevent the mental health issues that are associated with their jobs.’
Selles told Humber News so much more can be done to prevent and resolve PTSD issues.
“As a professional, I have been doing this for about 30 years or so. I know that it can take a long time, and so much could be prevented by putting more emphasis on prevention as opposed to rehabilitation,” Selles said.
Selles said the centre will help reduce the stigma around seeking support for PTSI.
“If treatment becomes more mainstream, and if it becomes part of what’s associated with particular professions, then maybe people in those professions are going to continue to sort of challenge the stigma that’s still associated with getting help,” he said.
Selles said the normalization of seeking help will make it easier for people to get help sooner, “as opposed to being ashamed…so that’s a really good thing.”