Boots On The Ground Extends Vital Support to Alberta’s First Responders

by Staff

Boots On The Ground (BOTG), a renowned peer support organization founded by and for first responders, is now available to serve Alberta’s emergency services. After five successful years operating from its Ontario base, BOTG is expanding its critical services to provide confidential peer-to-peer mental health support through a 24/7 helpline.

Since its establishment in 2018, the organization has answered 2400 calls, including helping 40 active suicide callers find appropriate counseling. In June 2023, BOTG marked its second-highest call volume ever, receiving 79 calls.

Founder and President Dave McLennan, a former police officer, expressed the organization’s long-standing goal of providing nationwide mental health support to first responders. “Our vision was always to ensure smooth operations in Ontario and then extend our helping hand to first responders across the country,” said McLennan. “This marks our initial step towards nationwide coverage.”

In Alberta, Mo Shaukat, a corrections officer and military reserve member, has taken on the role of President of BOTG. He emphasized the unique challenges faced by first responders and the critical importance of addressing trauma openly. Shaukat stated, “First responders are exposed to far more trauma than the average person, and bottling it up can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), relationship problems, substance abuse, and more.”

Statistics from the American Substance and Mental Health Services Administration reveal that approximately 1 in 3 first responders develop PTSD, a significantly higher rate than the general public, where it stands at 1 in 5. In Canada, a 2016 study estimated that 70,000 non-federal police, firefighters, and EMS personnel have suffered from PTSD.

BOTG is now fully prepared to answer calls in Alberta, extending a confidential and secure platform for first responders to openly discuss their experiences. The organization is actively seeking additional volunteers with strong connections to the first responder community.

Gary Carty, a retired police officer with four decades of service, and his wife, who settled in Alberta following his retirement, are among the volunteers joining BOTG. Carty, who personally grappled with PTSD in his final years of police service, understands the significance of the organization. He noted, “BOTG provides a safe space for candid conversations about our experiences, with non-judgmental individuals on the other end who have undergone similar life challenges.”

Boots On The Ground was founded in 2018 by Dave McLennan, a retiring police officer dedicated to supporting those exposed to trauma within the first responder community. Beyond peer support, the organization also arranges therapy dog visits to First Responder facilities in southern Ontario and actively participates in various research initiatives.

First responders in Alberta can reach out to Boots On The Ground at 1-866-724-BOTG (2684) to access essential peer support. BOTG’s expansion to Alberta marks a significant milestone in its mission to ensure the well-being of those who tirelessly serve our communities.

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