Mental Health Support for Health Care Workers and First Responders in the Bow Valley

The Cause

Canmore and Area Health Care Foundation (CAHCF) will work with University of Alberta's HEROES IN MIND, ADVOCACY AND RESEARCH CONSORTIUM (HIMARC) to expand its innovative programming designed to support health care providers and first responders. HIMARC's aim is to develop, evaluate, and help implement solutions to improve the resilience, readiness, and growth, as well as health and wellbeing, of PSP (public safety personnel), military members, Veterans, and their families. CAHCF will bring the HIMARC's programming to Canmore general hospital.

The primary tool used by HIMARC for its programming is the Multi-Modal Motion-Assisted Memory Desensitization and Reconsolidation (3MDR) machine. 3MDR is a virtual reality supported, exposure-based psychotherapy system used for treating PTSD and related conditions.

3MDR is a relatively new treatment for PTSD which is based on virtual reality exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, embedded within a novel context whereby the patient walks on a treadmill whilst interacting with a series of self-selected images that are displayed on a large screen and relate to the patient’s past traumas.

CAHCF will purchase a 3MDR machine and will work with Dr. SUZETTE BRÉMAULT-PHILLIPS, who is a professor at the University of Alberta, Director of HiMARC and responsible for establishing 3MDR in hospital environments.

Who Will it Benefit?

The Bow Corridor Health Service Area extends from Cochrane and the Stoney First Nation Community west to the British Columbia border. The population of the area is approximately 30,000 people. It is also estimated that almost 4 million tourists visit the area each year. There are 450 staff are employed in the Bow Corridor health service area. Canmore General Hospital is equipped with an approved helipad that can accommodate STARS helicopters. The hospital has access to AHS EMS Advanced Life Support ground transport based at the Canmore Hospital.

There are approximately 8,000 doctors, 26,000 nurses, 4,500 firefighters, 4,200 paramedics, 8,000 police officers, and 4,200 RCMP officers working in Alberta. There are also18 Indigenous police services with staff that service local communities. There are several agencies that support front line health workers and emergency responders including Alberta Health Services, the ALBERTA PROFESSIONAL FIRE FIGHTERS & PARAMEDICS ASSOCIATION, and Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service. All agencies emphasize how essential mental health care is for their workers and provides some services. Additionally, universities, colleges and training institutions that provide education for those interested in joining these fields, also emphasize the importance of monitoring mental health and the impact of trauma.

A study at Carleton University from 2018 found that 36.7% of Canadian municipal police, 34.1% of firefighters, 50.2% of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and 49.1% of paramedical staff screened positive for a mental health condition such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse (Carleton et al., 2018)

The impact of 3MDR was demonstrated by a patient study in South Wales from 2020 where military persons experiencing service-related PTSD were given access to 3MDR (immediately or after a delay of 14 weeks after experiencing trauma), The conclusion of the study was that 3MDR reduced symptoms of PTSD and resistant PTSD as well as was well-tolerated by the majority of participants.