More and more agencies are recognizing the importance of a robust mental health and wellness programming to recruitment, retention, job satisfaction, and productivity. With this in mind, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office adopted a holistic approach to mental health and wellness through a hands-on employee assistance program. This webinar discusses the development, work, and outcomes of the initiative spearheaded by today’s speakers, Lieutenant Khaliqa Wheatley and Kathleen ‘Kat’ Hensley.
Lieutenant Khaliqa Wheatley has 13 years of law enforcement experience and is now part of the WCSO’s mental health and wellness team. Meanwhile, Kat Hensley is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) working in private practice at The Crane Center.
Specifics of the discussion include:
- An overview of the WCSO – the community they serve, the composition of the agency, and the units within the agency.
- The EAP program that the WCSO initially has in place and their intention to improve their mental health and wellness programming.
- Getting to know Kat – the Licensed Mental Health Counselor assigned to the WCSO, and understanding her motivation to work in the first responder mental health and wellness space.
- The widespread stigma in helping professions and the accompanying emotions and fears that fuel it.
- The inception of the program that aimed to improve the existing EAP – the survey conducted to WCSO personnel and what it revealed as the reason behind the workforce’s underutilization of the program.
- The first steps they took to normalize help-seeking culture in the agency by raising awareness through the newsletter and making staff aware of the crisis lines.
- The mandatory groups: Who it is for, how it is grouped, when it is held and what happens in the meetings.
- The success of the mandatory groups initiative despite initial resistance from staff as evidenced by the rate of referrals, utilization, and increase of usage through the years.
- The going beyond a 1-8000 hands-on approach that the WCSO established in their mental health and wellness programming demonstrated by the value it places on mental health through prompt and readily accessible services that accommodate the individuals’ emotional and physical circumstances.
- The well-developed peer support program and chaplains that assist the mental health and wellness team to manage and attend to different staff needs.
- The challenges and needs identified by the WCSO as critical in the development of the program.
- The holistic aspect of the program where services provided encompasses the different potential pain points and challenges of the staff members who are seeking help.
- The outcomes of the program as supported by the returning client and utilization rate as well as the continuation of services beyond the free sessions provided by WCSO.
- Case studies that show how the mental health and support team, as well as the peer groups and chaplains work together to provide support to critical incidents WCSO staff went through.
- A list of the Highly effective evidence-based treatment strategies used to help first responders.
- The first responder suite created specifically to separate first responders from private clients to make first responders more comfortable to seek help.
Questions from the webinar attendees are about:
- Staff not utilizing or trusting the program provided by the agency.
- Changing organization culture surrounding mental health and wellness.
- The process of integrating participants in the mandatory groups.
- The link between officer wellness and officer misconduct.
- Whether all agency providers should go through cultural awareness and competency programs.
Click Here to View and Register for other Upcoming Wellness Webinars and Recordings on the JCH Platform.
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: Mental Health Survey
- Handout: Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act
- “The most valuable thing was how they integrate their EAP right into their disciplinary processes and are working to extend that cultural competency within their own organization as well. An absolutely excellent presentation! I’m an EAP peer support agent and took a lot of good ideas away. Thanks so much.” — Bethany
- “This is such a proactive response to the work that we do and it is good to see that this is occurring and that the employees are responding. It would be great to see more first responders in a second career as therapists catering to folks that do the business that we are in…it just helps with understanding what we see and the traumatization that does/can occur with the position.” — Cris
- “The ideas and tools that they use to get “buy in” for their program and the overwhelming amount of people that use the services there in the last 2-3 years.” — Keri
- “The broad perspective on how that agency has options for the individual officer to tailor a unique treatment plan. In other words, they are not limited to only one treatment option, e.g. mandatory CISM (which I am not a fan of), EAP, counseling, peer support, etc.” — Kristopher
- “I agree that it is easier sometimes to have members within the agency that can be that mental health support versus an outside agency such as EAP. That program sounds like a great resource for that area.” — Kumiko
- “Good info on how they developed and that it was definitely lead from the top down. Loved hearing that leadership continues to be present with the provider to gain that buy-in.” — Karil
- “Loved the idea of groups provided to First Responders and the holistic approach overall. Nice job!!” — Sheri
- “The passion which the Presenters exhibited while covering such in-depth knowledge regarding such a sensitive, but necessary topic. AWESOME!!!” — Vivian