Nova Scotia’s volunteer firefighters and volunteer members of ground search and rescue teams will soon have access to new mental health supports.
The new Nova Scotia Firefighter and Ground Search and Rescue Volunteer Assistance Program will give these vital first responders and their families access to a range of health and wellness services, including personal and family counselling, stress management, nutrition support and more. The services are similar to those offered through employee and family assistance programs for career first responders. The service will begin in December.
“Over the last few years, Nova Scotians have called on our volunteer firefighters and ground search and rescue volunteers like never before,” said Brian Comer, Minister of Addictions and Mental Health. “They are there for us on our worst days. This new program is one way we can be there for them when they need us.”
Volunteer first responders will have access to counselling by mental health clinicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a designated phone number starting next month.
The service is part of a two-year pilot program with Telus Health that will help the government better understand the mental health needs of volunteer firefighters and ground search and rescue volunteers.
“Nova Scotians who volunteer to be firefighters do so because they want to help their neighbours, friends and family. They do this often without thinking about the potential for physical and emotional injury. Volunteer firefighters in this province have experienced a few very rough years, and this new program provides welcome support for those who need it.”
– Greg Jones, President, Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia
- the Province is investing $75,000 over two years for the program
- there are about 6,000 volunteer firefighters and 1,200 ground search and rescue volunteers in Nova Scotia
- volunteer first responders can also access PSPNET, a free online service that provides mental health and well-being support to public safety personnel experiencing challenges related to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress
- Telus Health offers the employee and family assistance program for Government of Nova Scotia employees and is the provider for Access Wellness, a single session one-to-one counselling program available to all Nova Scotians
Mental health crisis line: 1-888-429-8167 (toll-free); it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or people concerned about someone else
For non-crisis support, people needing treatment and care for mental health and addictions can contact the mental health and addictions intake service at 1-855-922-1122 to be matched with appropriate services
Action for Health, the government’s plan to improve healthcare in Nova Scotia: https://novascotia.ca/actionforhealth/
Mandate letter for the Minister of Addictions and Mental Health: https://novascotia.ca/exec_council/letters-2021/ministerial-mandate-letter-2021-CNS-AMH-Youth.pdf