Fortunately, dedicated individuals like Jason Corthell (Director of Ironclad Wellness and Division Chief, Fire Training in Harris, TX) are breaking down this stigma. Through his emotional wellness program created with Dr. Liz Fletcher, Jason aims to provide a safe space for first responders, providing in-house resources for mental health. By promoting self-care, education, and support, he's working to ensure that no one in the firefighting community suffers in silence.
Jason and his team have created documentation to facilitate a groundbreaking program for optimal mental wellness through chaplaincy, peer support and therapy. In this article, Jason details how his innovative emotional wellness program is transforming lives for those on the front lines.
Chief Corthell explains further:
First, I'd like to say that it costs a lot more to lose a firefighter than it does to provide these services for a firefighter. Think about the benefits that this can have for a department. I’d say an astronomical percentage of firefighter mental health struggles are at-home issues. If we can get these firefighters the help they need to solve the at-home issues, so they're not bringing work issues to home, and home issues to work in a negative way, then this is one hundred percent worth the investment. I think my fire chief would agree that when this program launched, he was skeptical at best, now he’s turned around 180 degrees, bought into it and is super excited about it.
Our chaplaincy program has two chaplains, and we have an 11-person peer support group. On the clinical side with professional counseling, we hit a home run right off the bat by going with a counseling group in our district. It seems easier for people to transition (if necessary) to a different counselor within a counseling center if one clinician isn't their type. They don't have to redo their insurance or registration or re-explain their issues. They can just say, “Hey, I'm not feeling this therapist, can I switch over to this other one I've heard good things about?”
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Probably the most unique approach that we've done is embedding counselors in the fire stations, where they conduct onsite appointments. This took away the need to make an appointment and miss work, and the insurance was already established.
The firefighters are already getting paid to be at the fire station. And so our men and women would walk in and say, “Hey, Tiffany, you got a second to talk out in the bay?” And they go out in the bay, and it might be 15 minutes, it might be an hour. My fire chief always jokes with me, “I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing that we have so many damn counseling appointments. Are we doing something right, or are we doing something wrong?” And I respond, “Just let it go, Chief!”.
When we found this counseling organization, we hit a home run. They're a 501c3 nonprofit, and work on a sliding scale. If a member did have to pay for an actual appointment, they decide the amount they can pay. We go through insurance because there is a bit of cost savings, as our insurance coverage pays for a portion of the appointment. Then we cover whatever the insurance doesn't. So if an appointment costs $70 and the insurance pays $40, we'll pay $30 to make up the difference.
When I started this process, documentation was not out there, so we didn't have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) to help us guide this process. We now have SOPs and SOGs for every element of behavioral health, peer support, chaplaincy, and our licensed professional counseling, and they outline expectations, and financial needs and wants.
Another document Jason’s team created is the Memorandum of Understanding with the licensed clinicians. This covers counseling appointments for the firefighter, counseling appointments for the firefighter's family, and play therapy for their kids. It also defines a mandatory quarterly training program for all members. Then it covers the financials and the embedment phase of the counselors.
We have an SOP for everything. If anyone out there needs those documents to help get you started, we would be more than happy to share them. I prefer to explain the documents first, so they don't get lost in translation. There are a lot of documents and if I put them on a website, and you print them, they'll probably sit on your desk for a bit. I can be reached via a phone, Zoom or in person and my email address is email@example.com.
I won’t say that I have a hundred percent buy-in from all my folks on this program, but I've had some of the crustiest, crabby, hard-to-crack captains come to me and say, “We appreciate what you're doing, and this program is good!”
We are dedicated to promoting awareness surrounding the difficulties of the profession and inspiring conversations that minimize the stigma associated with the stress our first responders' experience. We provide education, mental health tools and resources for agencies, individuals, and family members. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all who dedicate themselves to protecting and serving others.
Our training brings top-notch national resources to areas that wouldn't receive them otherwise. We also capitalize on a mix of local speakers / organizations that each area has to offer. By discussing the real 21st Century issues that are consistently faced by our first responders and their families, our conferences will provide awareness, resources, and tools to combat PTS, depression, suicide, addiction, stress, and overall wellness. Please visit our website at www.1stRC.org for more information.
The Major Occupational Hazard of Post Traumatic Recall (PTSD)
By: IPHA Editorial Team In the continued expansion of the medical society to “go non-invasive” (or non-surgical) and the trending reassessment of interventional medications, the mental health community has acquired major tools in its toolbox to support clinical diagnostic and treatment efforts. In 2008, the FDA approved the first TMS Depression Device for Depression Treatment. In 2018, the FDA approved the marketing of Repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) as adjunct therapy for of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Current reports have presented an est. 30% of depression cases have a resistance to antidepressant drugs, where Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and the application of Transcranially applied non-invasive neuro-magnetic intervention has shown positive results in combination with antidepressants in patients with treatment-resistant depression.
(See complete feature on TMS)
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