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Federal corrections must improve workplace for parole officers’ mental health: report

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OTTAWA — A new report calls on federal corrections to ease caseloads, improve workplace policies and give added resources to parole officers in order to mitigate current strains on their mental health.

The report, led by public safety expert Rosemary Ricciardelli and released by a union, says that federal parole officers are experiencing extremely high levels of workplace stress and compromised mental health.

These 1,600 parole officers across Canada feel overwhelmed by their caseloads, are exposed to violent and traumatic material in client files, and need mental health supports, the report said.

Working either in an institution or in the community, parole officers are tasked with preparing imprisoned people to reintegrate back into communities, and address issues that brought that person to jail, according to the report.

Ricciardelli, currently a research chair in safety, security and wellness at the school of maritime studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland, said she found the well-being of parole officers moved in tandem with the well-being of their clients.

“If they were worried or concerned about a client’s ability in re-entry, or if a client has specific needs, or anything, their mental health became more compromised,” said Ricciardelli, who has extensive experience in criminal justice system research.

Parole officers are grappling with wanting to do more but being unable to because of their caseload, Ricciardelli added.

When people are released from prison into the community, parole officers are supposed to understand any potential risks that person poses and how those can be managed, said David Neufeld, national president for the Union of Safety and Justice Employees.

“The fact is that parole officers, if they are not mentally or physically well, it makes it very difficult to do the work that they’re doing. Most Canadians don’t understand that every single day, parole officers encounter graphic files, working with files that document incidents of violence,” Neufeld said.

The high levels of stress parole officers face on the job makes their work more challenging, particularly from the accountability and responsibility that comes with assessing risks in determining whether someone is ready for release into the community, he said.

“They are first responders. They are the front line to ensure public safety. And in order to do that, they do compromise themselves,” added Ricciardelli.

“They’re protecting public safety in a way that we just don’t appreciate. And it’s going to take a toll.”

The correctional system has been under strain since 2014 when Stephen Harper’s Conservative government tasked departments with reducing spending in order to meet its savings targets, said Neufeld.

When it came to parole officers, the Correctional Service of Canada re-evaluated the work parole officers do and reduced the number of staff required to do the work, raising caseloads for staff, he said.

Prior to 2014, one parole officer was assigned to 25 imprisoned people in medium- and maximum-security prisons.

After the cuts, officers had to manage 28 to 30 cases in those same types of prisons. In minimum-security prisons, officers are assigned to 25 cases, said Neufeld.

Alongside the increased caseloads, the work has become more complex to appropriately manage cases for racialized Canadians and Indigenous Peoples, women and those with mental health needs, he added.

The study is based on in-depth interviews with parole officers employed by Correctional Service Canada across the country, conducted between August and September 2020.

Correctional Service Canada takes the issues raised by parole officers in the report very seriously, according to spokesperson Marie Pier Lécuyer in a statement Wednesday.

The agency is actively reviewing options to ensure resources and distribution of cases are “appropriate” and will continue to work with the union, said Lécuyer.

Staff have access to employee assistance, a stress management program and information sessions on mental health, she said.

All new parole officers are required to take mental health preparedness training, and the agency will resume mental health refresher training for all parole officers “once the COVID-19 pandemic is over,” Lécuyer said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

Health

DeMille Anticipates Broader Rollout Of 4th Dose Vaccination – Country 105

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The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) is getting ready for the annual flu shot campaign, as well as a broader ask for arms to get the fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The province expanded the second booster dose eligibility on April 7th to those who are 60 and over as well as First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and over.

“At this time, I’m not hearing any indication of the province opening up (eligibility) to the broader population, and I’m not sure really we would have evidence that would be needed at this time,” DeMille told Acadia News Monday. “We are much lower in terms of the amount of COVID-19 (cases) in the province of Ontario. With the summertime, we see overall less spread (of the virus).”

DeMille did mention that the District anticipates the call will get broader in the fall.

As of June 21st, 133,334 people within the TBDHU have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 80,719 have received three doses.

Officials have given fourth doses to 18,687 individuals as of the last update.

DeMille was also asked about a return to school in September, and what that might look like after Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told Federal MPs on June 8th that there is a real threat of the seventh wave of COVID-19.

The Medical Officer says it’s hard to look into the crystal ball and pinpoint what will happen based on the fact that right now a majority of the new infections are the Omicron variant.

“The schools overall did fairly well,” DeMille stated. “We know that a lot of people did get infected, which can cause a lot of disruption because people still need to isolate so that they are not spreading (the virus) to others. Likely a lot of spread happened in the schools when we re-opened in January and through the last few waves.”

DeMille noted that the schools took a lot of measures that helped in previous waves, including improving ventilation.

“I anticipate that (masking) will always be optional, but when the Omicron variant is spreading, it’s always helpful when people are masking in indoor spaces when they are interacting with others,” said DeMille. “(Down the road) we might recommend that people wear masks in schools, but that advice will really depend on what we see circulating, how much it is circulating and what the impact is on schools.”

DeMille mentioned whether it is the school, the workplace, or any other indoor space, the goal is to return to as normal as possible in an eventual post-pandemic world.

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Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, says WHO – Global News

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Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled on Saturday, although WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak.

“I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely,” Tedros said.

The “global emergency” label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the U.N. agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.

Read more:

Canada signs $32.9M contract for smallpox drug with manufacturer Chimerix

There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the last six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to WHO.

So far this year almost 1,500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic.

It has two clades – the West African strain, which is believed to have a fatality rate of around 1% and which is the strain spreading in Europe and elsewhere, and the Congo Basin strain, which has a fatality rate closer to 10%, according to WHO.


Click to play video: 'More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll'



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More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll


More than half of Canadians confident in monkeypox response, but 55% worried about spread: poll – Jun 17, 2022

There are vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply.

The WHO decision is likely to be met with some criticism from global health experts, who said ahead of the meeting that the outbreak met the criteria to be called an emergency.

However, others pointed out that the WHO is in a difficult position after COVID-19. Its January 2020 declaration that the new coronavirus represented a public health emergency was largely ignored by many governments until around six weeks later, when the agency used the word “pandemic” and countries took action.

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; additional reporting by Mrinmay Dey; Editing by Sandra Maler)

© 2022 Reuters

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Kingston, Ont., area health officials examining future of local vaccination efforts – Global News

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More than 455,000 people in the Kingston region have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now health officials say they’re using the summer months, with low infection rates, to look ahead to what fall might bring, urging those who are still eligible to get vaccinated do so.

Read more:

Kingston Health Sciences Centre to decommission COVID-19 field site

“Large, mass immunization clinics, mobile clinics, drive-thru clinics and small primary care clinics doing their own vaccine,” said Brian Larkin with KFL&A Public Health.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Gerald Evans says those who are still eligible for a third and fourth dose should take advantage and roll up their sleeves during the low-infection summer months.

“Now in 2022, although you still might get COVID, you’re probably not going to be very sick. You are less likely to transmit and ultimately that’s one of the ways we’re going to control the pandemic,” added Evans.

He expects another wave of COVID-19 to hit in late October to early November and that a booster may be made available for those younger than 60 who still aren’t eligible for a fourth dose.

Read more:

Kingston, Ont. COVID assessment centre cuts hours for the summer

“The best case scenario is a few more years of watching rises in cases, getting boosters to control things and ultimately getting out of it with this being just another coronavirus that just tends to cause a respiratory infection and worst-case scenario is a new variant where all the potential possibilities exist to have a big surge in cases and hopefully not a lot more serious illness,” said Evans.

Public Health says they’re still waiting for direction from the province on what’s to come this fall.

“We’re expecting that we would see more age groups and younger age groups be eligible for more doses or boosters but about when those ages start, we have yet to have that confirmed,” said Larkin.

The last 18 months of vaccines paving the way for the new normal could mean a yearly COVID booster alongside the annual flu shot.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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