Peer support teams offer value by providing a safe space for personnel to share experiences, cope with trauma, and access resources, especially in the first responder professions where the likelihood of exposure to stressful and traumatic incidents are high. In Kansas, the First Responder Support Team (FRST) was established to provide crucial support to the state’s diverse array of first responder agencies. This webinar unpacks FRST’s work and the services they provide to first responders throughout the state of Kansas.
Leading the discussion are Angie Jones and Jeff Bragg. Angie has been with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation since 2001 and serves as the President of FRST’s Board of Directors. Meanwhile, Jeff served with the city of Olathe since 1993 and is currently its Special Operations Division Commander and FRST’s Education Chair.
Specifics of their presentation include:
- The growing need for support among first responder groups as early as 2007 in the state of Kansas.
- The intermediary peer support and training initiative made available throughout Kansas through the KBI despite the lack of a formalized program to address the need.
- FRST: Its inception, mission, organizational structure, non-profit status, and regional approach to ensure a quicker and more localized response.
- FRST’s response component
- How they tailor the assistance they provide based on the agency’s input and specific needs.
- Defusings and debriefings provided for “standard” critical incidents – how it is coordinated, who leads these, when these are conducted, and what constitutes a critical incident.
- The more comprehensive response for line of duty death, suicide, or critical injury which includes coverage on-scene, at the hospital and the agency, defusings, debriefings, family liaison, and support and resources during roll call, shift change, visitation, and funeral.
- Choosing a family liaison – who is and is not an ideal candidate.
- Information that FRST provides during the roll call/shift change presentation to employees and administration.
- A case example of how FRST provided support in a 2020 line-of-duty death.
- An overview of critical incident debriefings provided by FRST from 2021 to 2022
- The education component provided by FRST
- The pragmatic choice of training individuals in smaller rural agencies where it is impractical to have a full peer support group.
- Free training provided by FRST to peer support teams to sharpen their skills, learn best practices, and help them be more comfortable in the role.
- The 40-hour basic peer support class – its cost, curriculum, and instructors.
- Plans for annual regional trainings targeted towards rural agencies for continuing education.
- Other services and programs provided through FRST
- Administrative training when developing a peer support team and its policies and procedures.
- Assistance with the peer selection process through interview board involvement and interview questions and scoring system development.
- Agency education on selected topics by respective experts.
- The West Coast Post Trauma Retreat – how it is coordinated, how long it is, the treatment modalities used, the retreat participants, its cost, and the scholarship offered.
- Clinician vetting to ensure that clinicians working alongside peers are acquainted with the nuances of first responder culture.
Questions from the webinar attendees are about:
- The clinician qualifying questionnaire.
- Certifications that ensure clinicians are culture-competent.
- The difference in response between staff suicides and line-of-duty deaths.
- Advice for those currently at the early stages of planning and developing a similar program to FRST.
- Red flags first-line supervisors should watch out for that indicate an employee is struggling.
- Whether FRST provides support to dispatch and civilian personnel.
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: Peer Support Guidelines
- “Great webinar for States that are not set up for peer support.” — Shaun
- “The firsthand experience, including successes and things they would have done differently. Excellent presentation and excellent work they’re doing!” — Sarah
- “Peer Support can be organized at a Regional Level to offer Statewide support during crisis situations. Local Peer Support could request Regional teams to respond and assist instead of managing through the crisis when directly impacted them.” — Sheri
- “They provided great information about their program and all the benefits of reaching out to them.” — Travis
- “I am a peer support specialist for Probation in MN. My husband is a first responder and I’ve forwarded information from this webinar to him. Such a need in the LE field for this… Thank you for a great presentation!!” — Deanna