The New York State Sheriffs’ Association and FirstNet, Built with AT&T, have partnered to launch a statewide health and wellness program that will be available to all 58 county sheriff’s offices in New York.
The new program comes as 177 first responders committed suicide across the country last year.
The program includes a four-part approach in an effort to ensure sheriff’s department employees have access to help, support and training. That includes a new or improved employee assistance program, crisis and trauma training, school resource officer support, and a public service announcement campaign.
The sheriffs’ association will provide resources and training to establish new-agency based employee assistance programs, or expand existing programs. Support include in-person presentations, train-the-trainer sessions, and meetings with individual sheriff’s office personnel who will act as program leaders to implement a peer-based employee assistance program.
Personnel also will receive training from several mental health law enforcement organizations, covering topics like helping those in crisis, advanced crisis intervention, trauma resources, PTSD, suicide prevention, and dealing with a fellow officer’s death.
The sheriffs’ association will set up special health and wellness training for all school resource officers who are members of the association’s Committee on Policing and Safeguarding Schools, as a way to tackle school violence. The training is designed to help officers be better prepared, and have resources available in the event an incident does happen.
Training is expected to start early next year.
Finally, the association will create videos and other social media elements to deliver the message “It’s OK to not be OK.” The campaign is intended to publicize the challenges first responders face every day, highlight the effect their service to the community has on their mental health, and raise awareness among sheriff personnel about the resources available to them.
In addition, the sheriffs’ association will establish a confidential peer-to-peer hotline staffed by deputy sheriffs and other personnel from around the state to provide early intervention and keep stress from escalating or manifesting.
“The rates of PTSD, depression, suicide and anxiety among other physical and mental ailments among public safety personnel far exceed the rates of the general population,” said Amy Kramer, president of AT&T New York, in a release. “The general population — and resources like this health and wellness program — are needed to protect our first responder communities.”