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The LHPP team was treated to a special visit

May 26, 2021

Health and Safety manager Carl O’Brien is pictured with Craig Lovell and Stella, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s first support dog. Photo: Vale Archive

For the past couple of years, the team at our Long Harbour Processing Plant (LHPP) has held weekly “huddles” over coffee and cookies. “It’s a mini business update every Thursday morning at 9:30,” said site Safety and Health supervisor, Craig Lovell. Topics discussed include production numbers, a health and safety update, new kaizens, and highlighting the week’s rock stars.

Occasionally, the huddles include guest speakers. Recently, they had two very special guests, Stella the support dog and her handler, constable Krista Fagan of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC).

I’ve visited a lot of different businesses with Stella but I was astonished with my visit to Vale.

Stella, a 14-month-old Portuguese water dog, is training to become the RNC’s first police support dog. Krista points out that this is different from a police “service” dog whose role includes K9 search and drug detection. Stella, on the other hand, is in a support role that encourages people to touch, cradle and cuddle her.

LHPP has nurses onsite 24 hours a day who are also trained in mental health wellness. Nurses Joyce O’Reilly, left, and Mary Jane Dinn pose with Stella in the onsite medical room. Photo: Vale Archive

To date, Stella has had more than 300 hours of training and later this year, COVID-19 protocols permitting, will complete a week-long training program to be certified as a support dog, at which point she can be officially sworn in as a member of the RNC.

Support and care

RNC constable Krista Fagan, left, with police support dog Stella, and Health and Safety Supervisor Craig Lovell, in our Long Harbour Processing Plant’s (LHPP) Green Room,” a space for employees to decompress. “It gets used a lot,” said Craig. Photo: Vale Archive

Stella will help those dealing with traumatic situations, particularly children. (The force opted for a hypoallergenic breed so that anyone with allergies could freely pet or cuddle with the lovable pooch.) In the meantime, Stella’s other roles include visiting long-term care facilities, schools, community events and, on Employee Wellness Fridays, she spends the day bringing cheer to fellow officers and civilian staff.

She’s also a huge help to her handler, who she lives with. Krista suffers from work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has been diagnosed with related depression. “She’s a wonderful companion. I’ve got the best partner,” said Krista.

Craig had heard about Stella in the local media, but realized that a visit to LHPP would be possible, and beneficial for the team, after learning that Stella had paid a visit to his wife’s workplace.

“Working in the plant can be a stressful job, and COVID-19 has compounded that,” said Craig.
Crews work 12-hour shifts handling chemicals that can be high temperature and under pressure; LHPP is in operation 365 days a year. Focusing on the task at hand is critically important.

To decompress, our company offers employees an onsite “Green Room.” There are also nurses 24-hours a day, seven days a week who are trained in mental health wellness.

For Craig, the visit was an entertaining part of his team’s ongoing efforts to break down any stigma around mental health wellness. “Mental health wellness is something we talk about quite a bit, trying to normalize the conservation,” he said.

As someone dealing with depression and PTSD constable Krista was really impressed with the attention LHPP was paying to the issue. “I’ve visited a lot of different businesses with Stella but I was astonished with my visit to Vale. It was amazing to see how much safety and mental health wellness is talked about, and prioritized. It’s a step above.”

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