Veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will have increased access to mental health services with the expansion of a specialized clinic in Calgary. The Carewest Operational Stress Injury (OSI) clinic in northwest Calgary opened a new 1400 square foot addition on Friday, which will allow for future growth and expansion of services.
“This expansion illustrates our Government’s continued commitment to ensure we provide access to a wide range of mental health services, supports and information for veterans and their families,” said veterans affairs minister Kent Hehr.
The OSI clinic is one of 11 across the country which is staffed with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, and other specialized clinicians who are skilled and experienced in working with members of the military and police.
Dean Portz is a 16-year member of the RCMP, and had served in Canada’s military for 14 years prior to that. He has been coming to the clinic for the past seven years after being diagnosed with PTSD and major depressive disorder. He credited the staff and services at the clinic for his ability to function.
“When I was first diagnosed, I was very quiet,” said Portz. “I wanted to keep it to myself. [There’s a] stigma that’s attached to mental illness, to PTSD, and especially within my field where we have to be ‘the strong-of-the-strong’ and not allowed to be weak and to hurt.”
Portz said he had worked in peer-to-peer scenarios with fellow RCMP members to help them access mental health services, but eventually realized he needed to take his own advice and seek help. He praised the additional funding for the Carewest OSI clinic, saying the services provided are needed.
“I’m glad you’re getting more staff, you’re getting a bigger office,” said Portz. “You’re going to need more because there are a lot of us who are hurting.”