B.C. police want province to expand mental health coverage

Currently only mental stress caused by 'sudden and unexpected' trauma is covered by workers' compensation

Police in British Columbia are calling on the government to amend the province's Workers' Compensation Act to cover people who suffer long-term psychological damage as a result of ongoing workplace stress.

Currently, workers are only eligible for compensation for mental stress that does not result from an injury if it is "an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of and in the course of the worker's employment."

The British Columbia Police Association (BCPA), which represents 2,500 officers in 11 police services across the province, is lobbying the government to expand the coverage of mental stress under the act.

"The stress our officers face on the job isn't always the result of what the Workers' Compensation Act calls a 'single, sudden and unexpected event,'" said BCPA president Tom Stamatakis in a statement. "We want the act amended to reflect the reality that mental stress also occurs as a result of an accumulation of events."

The cumulative effects of stress can cause chronic psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, said Stamatakis.

The BCPA wants the act reformed to bring it in line with Ontario's legislation and with the rules governing the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces in the area of stress claims.  

The proposed reforms would also eliminate the legal and health costs associated with lengthy appeals for compensation for stress, will lead to appropriate care being delivered sooner and result in a shorter time off work, said Stamatakis.

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