Table of contents

Important dates

June 13, 2022 – Deadline for 2022-23 grant applications

Early 2023 – Successful applicants notified

Overview

Alberta’s firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, corrections officers and emergency health care workers often deal with stressful, dangerous and traumatic situations. This stress has a negative impact on first responders and emergency health care workers. They often experience post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) at significantly higher rates than the general population.

The Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders (SPHIFR) grant program has 2 separate funding streams:

  • Stream 1 (Services) provides funding for non-profit organizations that provide services to first responders and emergency health care workers living with or at risk for PTSI.
  • Stream 2 (Research) provides funding to researchers engaged in applied research that generates evidence on prevention or intervention for first responders and emergency health care workers living with or at risk for PTSI.

Funding

There is up to $1.5 million available for this grant program in 2022-23.

Eligibility

Grants are available for 2 areas of focus: services, and applied research.

Note: if a service or project is partially funded by another organization, the applicant must indicate what component will be funded by a SPHIFR grant to avoid overlap.

Stream 1: services

The grant for services is available for:

  • non-profit or public sector organizations that operate in Alberta
  • services or a project dedicated to providing services to Alberta first responders and emergency health care workers living with or at risk for PTSI

Stream 2: applied research

The applied research grant recipients must meet these requirements:

  • Applicant must be affiliated with a Canadian-based organization.
  • The research project must generate evidence on prevention or intervention for PTSI in first responders and emergency health care workers.

How to apply

Step 1. Read the grant guidelines

Stream 1: Services application instructions

Stream 1 grant agreement sample

Stream 2: Applied research application instructions

Stream 2 grant agreement sample

The Stream 2 grant agreement allows a version of the final report and dataset to be published on the Open government portal. This dataset is a modified version of data collected by the researcher with confidential or personally identifiable information removed. Some datasets may not be candidates for the Open government portal for ethical reasons.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact SPHIFR program staff if they have questions or concerns about the Open government portal.

Step 2. Complete the application package

PDF form issues

Fillable PDF forms do not open properly on some mobile devices and web browsers. To fill in and save the form:

  1. Save the PDF form to your computer – click or right-click the link and download the form.
  2. Open the PDF form with Adobe Reader. Fill it in and save it.

Download and complete the grant application form (PDF, 233 KB).

Depending on the application, the following documents may need to be submitted with your application:

Services application:

  • Incorporation documents – If ‘Other’ was selected under the question: ‘Which Act is the organization regulated by?’, the incorporation documents are required for the organization as part of the application process.
  • Partner organization letter of support – If a partner organization is included on the application as having a role in the project, a letter of support is required. The letter must be on the partner organization’s letterhead and include their support for the project and specific role.

Applied research application:

  • Résumé or curriculum vitae – Include one for the principal applicant and co-applicant where applicable. Each résumé should not exceed 5 pages.
  • References – Up to 2 pages of references may be included with citations.
  • Supplemental documents – If images, tables, graphs or letters of support are required, ensure the attachments are appropriately referred to in the application form.

Step 3. Submit the application package via email

All attachments can be combined into a single pdf using the naming convention of ‘Lastname-Firstname-Attachments.pdf’.

Email the PDF to [email protected]

After you apply

Successful applicants will be notified in early 2023 and asked to enter into a grant agreement.

Funded projects

  • Stream 1 – Services funded projects, 2020-21

    Name of project, amount funded and description

    Delivering and evaluating an established model of peer support for Alberta's first responders. Alberta Critical Incident Provincial Network ($99,875)

    Funding will support the training of up to 200 first responders to receive their ‘certified peer supporter’ designation. Once trained, the first responders will be able to support the in-house delivery of pre-incident resilience training, deliver individual and group crisis interventions based on the protocols of the model and educate on helping first responders access evidence-based formal mental health services when needed.

    Alberta occupational awareness training for health care professionals: First responder trauma. Alberta Fire Fighters' Association ($134,662)

    Funding will support cultural competency training of dedicated health care professionals who seek to provide care for first responders throughout Alberta. The additional training to those that provide care should result in better treatment outcomes for post-traumatic stress injuries at all stages of the psychological health continuum.

    Edmonton Fire Rescue Services mental health app. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services ($40,000)

    Funding will support the development of a mobile application tailored to the requirements of the personnel of Edmonton Fire Rescue Services to enhance help-seeking behaviours, increase accessibility to vetted and appropriate resources, and to increase the use of preventative strategies in an effort to reduce the likelihood of the development of a post-traumatic stress injury and/or disorder.

    Mental health and resiliency training for first responders. Wellness Works Canada ($31,600)

    Funding will support mental health and resiliency training for first responders in Edmonton and Calgary. The training will teach attendees to identify, respond and support themselves and colleagues who are at risk and/or experiencing signs or symptoms of post-traumatic stress injuries.

  • Stream 2 – Applied research funded projects, 2020-21

    Name of project, amount funded and description

    Helping prevent moral injury among long-term care workers: A mixed methods toolkit development study. Bonnie Lashewicz, University of Calgary ($209,525)

    Long-term care (LTC) is at the centre of tragic outcomes of COVID-19 and LTC workers face pronounced risk for occupational stress related injuries including moral injury. Moral injury results from guilt and/or shame that accompanies knowing what is needed yet being unable to do what is needed due to constraints outside one’s control. Moral injury is being newly and necessarily used to understand occupational stress among health-care workers during COVID-19 because compared to individually focused concepts such as anxiety, moral injury locates the source of problems in the structures and processes in which individuals are immersed.

    Research question: What is needed to support mental health and help prevent moral injury among LTC workers?

    Objectives: 1) gather evidence about worker mental health needs and moral injury risks, 2) collect worker evaluations of a selection of mental health support/moral injury prevention tools, and 3) create and disseminate a mental health support/moral injury prevention toolkit contoured to the needs of LTC workers in pandemic conditions.

    COVID-19 physical distancing, virtual delivery of trauma therapies to trauma-affected populations. Suzette Brémault-Phillips, University of Alberta ($206,137)

    COVID-19 is taking a significant toll globally on the mental health (MH) of individuals and communities, all the while prompting a change in the way that MH services are delivered. While in-person service provision is the gold standard, physical distancing has forced the use of alternate forms of delivery. MH clinicians have shifted to remote-delivery of therapies for trauma-affected populations (TAPs) including public safety personnel, military members, veterans, and civilian frontline workers. TAPs require timely access to secure digital health (DH) therapies if they are to remain able to serve their communities.

    This project will examine whether DH delivery of trauma therapies works as well as in-person therapy for TAPs and the impact DH has on MH clinicians and TAPs. There is also a need to evaluate evidence to guide policy, practice, privacy/security, and implementation. This study will explore whether DH is appropriate to deliver trauma therapies to TAPs. Based on study findings, the team, with its well-established local, provincial and national relationships with TAPs communities and MH providers, will provide recommendations regarding DH use to inform decision-making.

    Development of online before operational stress (BOS) programs for public safety personnel and their families. Dr. Linda Duffett-Leger, University of Calgary ($201,614)

    Public safety personnel (PSP) experience heightened operational stressors, including shift work, exposure to traumatic events, and threats to personal safety. Prevalence rates for post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) range from eight to 44%. Children and spouses living in PSP-connected families experience the effects of this operational stress and too often programs and supports available to PSP are either unavailable to or non-inclusive of family members. An interdisciplinary team of researchers (PI: Dr. Kelly Schwartz) was recently awarded a $1 million CIHR Team Grant to expand the BOS program, a group-based education, prevention, and intervention program designed to build the strength and resiliency of PSP members, by developing and implementing the Before Operational Stress-Family program (BOS-F).

    The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on PSP families already impacted by operational stressors and highlights the challenges of traditional clinic-based services. The aim of this project is to rapidly transition the CIHR funded in-person programs to virtual delivery.

    Assessing post-traumatic stress injuries among correctional workers in Alberta. Dr. Rose Ricciardelli, Memorial University of Newfoundland ($187,966)

    Increased attention is directed toward work-related PTSI among police, firefighters, paramedics and military personnel. However, little is known about PTSI and other occupational stress injuries among those employed in correctional services at the provincial and territorial level, particularly with consideration for how COVID-19 may contribute to the development of PTSI. Previous researchers suggest rates of mental disorders are high among correctional workers.

    This project will look at how COVID-19 and the overall correctional work experience are impacting the mental health and well-being of correctional staff in order to design a strategy to meet their health needs and encourage posttraumatic growth. In conducting an in-depth survey of the PTSI of correctional workers in Alberta, as well as British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Quebec for comparative purposes, the researchers will develop understanding of how job experiences relate to correctional worker PTSI. In the end, they hope to identify how to protect a correctional worker from developing PTSI and areas of personal/psychological growth that might arise from dealing with PTSI.

    Evidence-informed workplace policies and practices for the prevention of PTSI work disability. Dr. Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health ($172,820)

    The prevalence of PTSI among first responders is high and often leads to work disability. Recent studies have shown that organizational policies and practices have an important impact on PTSI, but the scientific evidence about the effectiveness of PTSI interventions is modest at best. Regardless of the state of the scientific evidence, first responder organizations must develop ways to protect workers. The researchers propose to gather and synthesize evidence about the prevention of PTSI work disability from the scientific evidence with current practices and experiences of first responder organizations in Alberta and internationally.

    The researchers propose a 3-stage data collection approach: 1) an environmental scan of international first responder organizations, 2) a review of reviews of the scientific literature, and 3) collection of current PTSI work disability prevention policies, programs, and practice from Alberta first responders. This project will engage with Alberta first responder stakeholders to co-develop the resulting evidence summary. This will help to ensure the findings are relevant and increase the uptake of knowledge to improve PTSI work disability policies and practices in Alberta.

    Text4PTSI: An E-mental health solution to prevent and manage PTSI among first responders in Alberta. Dr. Vincent Agyapong, University of Alberta ($150,000)

    This project involves implementing and evaluating Text4PTSI, a novel digital health program that provides daily supportive, therapeutic and educational text messages to first responders experiencing PTSI. Text4PTSI may provide mental health support for PSP already receiving mental health care or on a waitlist, and those with symptoms but have not actively sought care. To subscribe to Text4PTSI, PSP can text “PTSI” to a short code number that does not collect identifying data.

    Subscribers would then complete 4 validated online mental health assessments at enrollment, 6 weeks, 3 months and the 6-month program completion date. The researchers previously launched the Text4Hope program during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that after 6 weeks of enrollment, daily text messages significantly reduced suicidal ideation (16.9% vs. 26.6%), disturbed sleep (76.1% vs. 85.1%), moderate/high stress (78.8% vs. 88.0%), anxiety (31.4% vs. 46.5%), and depression (36.8% vs. 52.1%) when compared to a control population who had not yet received the daily text messages. Similarly, the researchers hope the Text4PTSI program will significantly reduce PTSI symptoms in PSP.

    Identifying risk factors for developing post-traumatic stress injuries following musculoskeletal injury. Dr. Doug Gross, University of Alberta ($49,494)

    Work-related accidents and events that are experienced by first responders and emergency health care workers often result in physical injuries to bones, muscles, and joints. Sometimes the traumatic accidents causing physical injuries also result in mental health injuries such as PTSI. Workers with both physical and mental health injuries are much less likely to recover (2 times less likely in Alberta PTSI rehabilitation programs).

    This has important implications for first responders, who are frequently exposed to psychologically traumatic events in the workplace and are particularly susceptible to developing work-related PTSI. Early identification and treatment of PTSI in first responders experiencing physical injuries could help them recover faster. Using data from WCB-Alberta, the researchers will study risk factors for developing PTSI following physical injury. This research will help clinicians to assess and treat first responders who are at risk for complicated outcomes. This research will contribute information that is important to improving worker recovery after injury and help them successfully return to work.

Contact

Connect with the SPHIFR grant program:
Email: [email protected]

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