Government of Canada takes action to strengthen mental health support for Canadian Armed Forces personnel, Veterans, and their families

HALIFAX -The Honourable Julian Fantino, M.P. for Vaughan and Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls and Minister of National Defence, today announced new and expanded mental health initiatives for Veterans, serving military members, and their families. Once implemented, the strategy will strengthen Canada’s world class treatment, care and research for Canadian Armed Forces members and Veterans.

Initiatives include the establishment of a major new Operational Stress Injury clinic in Halifax and additional satellite clinics opening in St. John’s, Chicoutimi, Pembroke, Brockville, Kelowna, Victoria and Montreal to speed access to mental health services for those with mental health injuries.

These initiatives, which amount to an investment of approximately $200 million, have been developed collaboratively by the Department of National Defence (DND), Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and Health Canada. They reflect the most innovative thinking and evidenced-based approaches to mental health and suicide prevention, leading to world class care and treatment for mental illness and injury.

Quick Facts

Treatment and Education
•In the fall of 2015, VAC will open a new Halifax Operational Stress Injury clinic to provide full assessment, diagnosis and treatment services for Veterans and their families who are living with operational stress injuries.
•The Road to Mental Readiness education campaign will be expanded to further reach Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families. This program helps increase CAF member and family resilience to mental illness and injury, promotes awareness of mental health treatments, and continues the campaign to reduce stigma associated with mental health.
•VAC, in partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, will develop a Veterans-specific Mental Health First Aid training program across Canada which will be delivered to an estimated 3000 Veterans, their families and caregivers over the next five years.

•The capacity to digitize CAF member health records will be increased, to speed the transfer of medical documentation to VAC.
•Working with civilian partners, DND and the CAF will acquire access to specialized brain-imaging technology to improve Canadian understanding of mental illness, enable further research in diagnosis and treatment, and help improve treatment for CAF members and Veterans.

Support to Families
•The peer support program for members, Veterans, and their families living with operational stress injuries will be augmented with additional staff to meet the needs of the military community. The Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSSIS) services are a lifeline for CAF and Veterans’ families seeking immediate assistance, with no requirements for referrals. Up to 2200 Veterans and their families will benefit from this expansion over the first five years.
•A new four year pilot project will expand access to the Military Family Resource Centres at seven locations to medically releasing CAF personnel and their families for two years post release. Military family resources are available at military establishments across Canada, through the 1-800 Family Information Line, and at Up to 1200 medically releasing Veterans and their families will take part in the pilot.

•Additional research will be conducted to find better treatments, promote faster recoveries, and achieve better outcomes for Veterans and serving members with mental health conditions and their families.
•Investments will be made to better understand transition from military to civilian life, enhance understanding of Veteran suicides to guide suicide prevention activities, improve the recognition, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in Veterans, and support the development of national standards and a certification process for psychiatric service dogs.

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