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Help is coming to B.C. Interior for first responders with workplace trauma

FILE PHOTO - Gear and helmets hang in the Kamloops Fire Rescue station on Summit Drive.
October 10, 2019 - 7:00 AM

ASHCROFT - A new facility focused on supporting the mental health and well being of uniformed personnel across the province is scheduled to open at a ranch near Ashcroft next spring.

Honour House Society is a non-profit organization that offers a free home for uniformed personnel and their families in the Lower Mainland, according to Bob Parkinson, mental health and wellness director for Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.

“Honour House is like Ronald McDonald house,” he says. The current facilities are located in New Westminster. There are ten suites and one guest cabin.

Some people use the facility for one night or sometimes up to a couple months, according to Parkinson.

“The suites are self-contained so you can be alone or you can join everybody else in several of the other family rooms,” he says.

But over time, the society found the people who were using the resource were still lacking certain treatment programs for mental health.

“That’s where the idea of the ranch started,” Parkinson says. “Our hope is that we are going to have a place where people can come and receive treatment and education and supports for mental health.”

Parkinson says the location near Ashcroft was chosen because of its serene, secluded setting.

“It’s still close enough to Ashcroft but you still feel like you’re secluded with the views and vistas,” he says.

The society will be offering the ranch property and organizations will be invited to offer programs either for free or at a very low cost, Parkinson says.

This past weekend, the society held a launch ceremony to let the public know what’s to come.

“We wanted to let organizations that do (mental health) treatment and education know about it, and we wanted the public to know because we still need some more help to get the doors open, so we are still working on some things, we are hoping by the spring of 2020, we will have all the infrastructure stuff done and then the first programs will be ready to roll,” he says.

As a paramedic and in his role as a mental health and wellness director, Parkinson knows first hand how a person’s mental health can be impacted through work-related trauma.

“Over the last three years I think there have been huge changes with workers compensation boards and employers understanding the effects of mental health but we still have a long journey to go and there are not a lot of programs that specifically target uniformed personnel,” he says.

Some of the programs that are expected to come into the ranch include programs for couples and families of workers as well.

“It’s not just the person at work, it’s the family at home that’s been living through this for the same amount of time the person has been working,” he says. “I personally think if we can break down these barriers and give these people a beautiful place to come into, we are going to save lives.”

Parkinson says first responders such as paramedics, firefighters, military personnel, police, search and rescue members and sheriffs suffer from mental health injuries at a rate four to five times higher than the general public.

“This has always been my motto: we ask them to help us in our time of need and I think when they need us, it’s time for us step out and help them,” he says.

Since the society is not-for-profit they will be looking for volunteers as they won’t have any paid staff on site. The property for the facility was obtained in a receivership auction and given to the society through donation, Parkinson said.

For more information visit the Honour House Society website by going here. 

A launch ceremony of the honour Ranch was held on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, near Ashcroft.
A launch ceremony of the honour Ranch was held on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, near Ashcroft.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Troy Clifford

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