I have previously posted my belief RCMP employees should be required to see a psychologist of their choice as part of RCMP “Mandatory” medicals. One barrier to this that always comes up is the cost so I thought I would provide some context as to what the cost would be and how insignificant it actually is compared to the amount of funding the RCMP receives and costs of having employees “Off Duty Sick” and on “Graduated Return to Work”. Before all the purists start to comment “I don’t understand the complexity of Treasury Board Funding Policies”, I want to make it very clear I served at a level and in positions where I was required not only to understand “Treasury Board Rules” but Provincial Funding Policies under the “Provincial Policing Services Agreement (PPSA)” as well. I do not represent this as a comprehensive study on the topic because it isn’t (I did it in a couple of hours). I do believe what follows accurately illustrates the financial burden to provide mental health services to every employee is not as financially overwhelming as RCMP Senior Management suggests. As we all know, getting facts from the RCMP is difficult so I obtained the following excerpts from on-line Quarterly Reports and Audits:
“The RCMP achieved Budget 2012 savings of $44.4 million in 2012-13. Savings increased to $89.1 million for 2013-14 and will reach the on-going savings target of $195.2 million in 2014-15 (inclusive of employee benefit plan costs). These savings are being accomplished with minimal impacts on direct policing operations.
The period ending December 31, 2013 marks the second year of Budget 2012 implementation and the RCMP is preparing for the third and final year when its reference levels will be reduced to the full savings target of $195.2 million. Some key initiatives include:
• Health Care Modernization – The RCMP is modernizing its Health Services program through an amendment to the definition of an “insured person” under the Canada Health Act (received Royal Assent on June 29, 2012). As of April 1, 2013, basic health care coverage for regular members is now under provincial/territorial regimes. The RCMP anticipates significant reductions in basic health care expenditures in 2013-14, with full savings associated to the initiative being realized in 2014-15. Savings in expenditures is evident upon review of standard object 4, which is reflecting a $25.8 million year-over-year reduction, largely attributed to this DRAP initiative.
• In 2013-14
o Operating Budget Carry Forward is $53.1 million higher in 2013-14 when compared to 2012-13. In 2012-13, the RCMP received $101.2 million through TB Central Vote transfer, whereas in 2013-14 the RCMP received $154.3 million in funding.”
On September 1st, 2015 there were 28,461 employees in the RCMP. If you multiply that by $160.00, the hourly cost of a Psychologist in the province I reside it would cost $4,553,760.00 annually or $2,276,880.00 if included as part of mandatory medicals every two years. This is less than 1/5th of the $25.8 million year-over-year reduction achieved through the Health Care Modernization noted above.
In February of 2014 the Final Report on the “Audit of Long – Term Sick Leave” was released and below is the Table with respect to Graduated Return to Work. The review used 4 Divisions for Audit purposes. (www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/aud-ver/reports-rapports/lts-cmld-eng.htm)
As shown in Table 1 below, notwithstanding the lack of complete and accurate information in HRMIS, for the divisions tested GRW timelines were significantly higher than standard:
Table 1 – Average period for members reported GRW as at March 1, 2013:
Division #GRW on HRMIS Average # Months
1 7 7.1
2 187 9.4
3 39 7.1
4 28 7.5
Total 261 7.78
Considering it was reported in 2010 that “E” Division had over 200 members on Long Term Sick Leave it is unlikely it is one of the Divisions included in the Audit so lets’ use the hypothetical scenario of 800 members annually on ODS for 2 months or 1/6th of a year prior to coming back on GRW with the Cst. salary of $39/hr. RCMP members are paid for 2,087 hours per year, so 2 months represents 348 hrs or $13,572 in salary. If you multiply that by 800 members which would be a conservative estimate, the cost is $10,857,600 or more than double the cost of having each employee see a psychologist once a year.
No, I am not naive enough to believe seeing a psychologist once a year is going to eliminate Operational Stress Injuries (OSI”s) but it would go a long way to preventing/mitigating not only OSI’s but a number of other issues related to mental health. It would also check off a box on every Commissioned Officers ”Performance Agreement” which seems to be the primary (if not the only) reason for doing things in today’s environment. This simple action would provide employees with an additional resource (maybe their only resource in some cases) in the eventuality they do suffer an OSI, provide them with an opportunity to develop strategies to increase resiliency to OSI’s early thereby reducing the long term effects and above all promote and educate everyone on mental health.
The RCMP Mental Health Strategy 2014-2019 listed the following as key areas:
The strategy focuses on five key areas:
4. Early detection and intervention
5. Continuous improvement.
The requirement for employees to see a psychologist as part of mandatory medicals addresses all 5. The cost everyone is so concerned about in all likelihood would be recovered multiple times over through reduced ODS and GRW. I am not one to write the Public Safety Minister, Provincial Justice Minister or the Commissioner as you are quickly labelled a “disgruntled employee”, “uniformed” or “trouble maker” and I am none of them. I visited a former colleague the other day and he told me I was too “passionate” about the force when I was working and I am still too “passionate” about it. I like everyone else served proudly and despite the pitfalls of certain individuals within the organization there are a far greater number of employees (past and present) who are as passionate as I am and if we all stand together change on this issue is possible. Yes, there is a significant cost to providing mental health services but there is a far greater cost to “not providing mental health services”. Above all, maybe there won’t be a next time someone feels they have no option other than to sacrifice their own life.
S/Sgt. R.T. Miller (retired)