After the Webinar: A Holistic Approach for Agency Wellness. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Khaliqa Wheatley and Kathleen Hensley answered a number of your questions after their presentation, A Holistic Approach for Wellness: A Spectrum of Options for a Cross-Functional Team. Here are just a few of their responses


Audience Question: Our biggest resistance is from staff not utilizing or trusting our program. Do you have any suggestions on how to overcome these challenges?

Khaliqa Wheatley: Oh, yes, not trusting them. I will say, this isn’t really to toot my own horn at all whatsoever, but I do believe because I am a law enforcement officer, I really help to break down that barrier of trust. So, oftentimes I would tell our people, “Hey, if you want to see someone, I trust Kat. I will trust her to take care of you.” So, knowing that I come from that same background has been significant. So, it’s more than just someone that just comes into the organization and says, “Hey, go see this one.” No, does our fire chief see them? Does our district lieutenant see them? Does our detention deputy? The person that has influence should be the one that should help with that vetting, to reduce that resistance from your staff to your provider. They have to know, and trust that person is not going to lead them astray and are not going to set them up for anything. Basically, what I like to say is that myself and Kat, we work on behalf of the agency member. And then my supervisor works on behalf of the organization. In the middle, we’re able to meet so that both needs are met. So, take care of your people. We’re not going to blend the lines. We’re not going to tell them anybody’s business, no one knows who’s seeing what when. But if we say, “Hey, I think this person might need to take the day off, because they need a little bit of time,” our supervisor would say, “Okay, no worries. I’ve got it covered,” and she will take care of it on her end from the administrative side of the organization, without knowing any details about that person’s specific needs that they have, that’s what you need is that nice blend. And knowing that you have that line built up of working on behalf of your staff member.


Audience Question: A co-worker who covers our Behavioral Health Court, calls it crazy court, which is pretty on par with the rest of my co-workers view of mental health and treatment for it. How do we begin to change this view?

Khaliqa Wheatley: Oh, my goodness, they call it crazy court. So, I mean, I would, I would say straight, sensitivity training, but I can’t stress enough, and Kat probably said this multiple times along with our sheriff, you have to have the right person in the right place. And it’s not going to hurt feelings but it’s for the preservation of the sanctity of your program, the sanctity of your court, and the people that receive all of those services that they don’t have someone that is going to talk badly or make light of the issues that people might be going through. Maybe today they don’t have it, but maybe somebody else will another day. So, if you don’t have the right person driving the bus, the bus is absolutely going to go into the ocean. So, I really hate to say taking that person out. But really, we’re big proponents at our organization, if we don’t have the right —– in the right seat, they don’t belong there. Kath, I know you have a lot of heart for people being the right person involved.

Kathleen Hensley: I definitely think that is the narrative that will continue to be the narrative, so it’s going to take an organic shift on the right people at the right personalities, to be able to kind of push back against that narrative. I know that that’s out there, but it certainly doesn’t help, especially in the first-responder community. So, I would definitely say probably need some change within the, from where this is coming from. And maybe just re———– the terminology, even just changing the terminology and I think that’s one reason why I appreciate the leadership of this organization that I’m working with is because it came from the top down. There was so much behind and there’s a lot with leadership. When leadership steps up for the betterment of their employees and their members to say it’s just as important as physical health, that makes a big difference, if that’s the narrative there will be an organic shift. There’ll be an organic change. But if we still use terminology like crazy, unfortunately, that will continue to break that stigma, and that is not, that’s not the goal that we’re headed towards.


Audience Question: How do you integrate new employees into the Mandatory Group program?

Khaliqa Wheatley: Oh, this is a great question. Yeah, so what we ended up doing is our new hires, we do an onboarding session every two weeks. So, with our new hires coming in, they get a presentation from our EAP manager, Tamara Bogle, and one of our peer support workers, one of our chaplains. And they have a nice hour time that they can introduce all the services that we have at the organization. Then, on a quarterly basis, the new hires will all go in and do a group session with Kath, so that we’re able to do that nice little scoop-up. Our next big thing we’re going to do something nicknamed by one of my favorite captains was a checkup from the neck up. So, eventually, we will start getting there to where we will do it on a rotating basis. People get individual services every three years or so, so we’re able to provide them with that service. But, yes, in the very beginning, they get the introduction to our program and what those services look like, and then they’ll get the quarterly as they come in as a new hire.


Audience Question:  Have you explored the association between police officer wellness and officer misconduct? 

Khaliqa Wheatley: Ooh, that’s a really great question. So, we have not done a really in-depth dive just yet into how those look. I will say that the agency has been progressive so when we do get disciplinary issues or misconduct allegations come about, I do get roped into the discipline. So, we start looking at, is this a symptom of something, or is this really just poor behavior displayed by this employee. So, we’re trying to get away from just going straight for the jugular and firing people, we’re taking a little bit of a pause and a step back to evaluate what is actually going on here. What are we seeing here? More often than not, we are actually seeing more signs, and symptoms of something deeper like divorces or stress. They’re tired, they might be taking care of a special needs child, some taking care of several special needs children. So, we are seeing some of that, and it is preserving some of those jobs. I’ll say 100% that we know a few of those jobs that have been saved because they have, they ended up going through these services A lot of time, I say something like, “I would suggest you go to see Kat,” you already hit rock bottom. So, let’s see if we can take our way back up. And a lot of the time, they do have that self-reflection of, “Maybe you’re right, I think I did hit rock bottom. So, I like my job more than just going out and wallowing at home.” So, yes, we have seen some of that as being roped into it. But I haven’t had a good chance to do an analysis on it. We’ve done a really low-level look at retention. And it looks like we have about a 17% retention rate since the inception of the program. I cannot say that it is necessarily causal to me, but I think that there might be some type of correlation to it with us now putting this at the forefront, and as a benefit that is offered to our agency members, the moment they step into the door.



Audience Question: Would you recommend that all agency providers be required to go through some sort of public safety cultural awareness program? 

Kathleen Hensley: Absolutely 100%.

Khaliqa Wheatley: I really can’t stress enough how important it is to have the right provider to take care of your folks. You’ve got to have the right person in there and get additional backups. Make sure that people go through these trainings. It’s more than just simply what you read in the book. I promise you, I think anyone says, even just as a correctional officer. Yeah, you go through the Corrections academy, and then when you step through the door, and those doors closed behind you, you don’t see daylight for another 12.5, 13 hours. It looks completely different than it does in a book. So, yes, training, training, training. I can’t stress enough.

Kathleen Hensley: I think that’s one of the clinical at one of the errors that clinicians make, because it’s hard enough to get a first responder in the door. But a clinician can’t be necessarily upset or tearful when they hear about first responders’ typical day, and it could be catastrophic. For instance, not being culturally competent, but a law enforcement officer is going to bring is going into your office. That can’t be an issue. But it’s the things like that. Like, that’s why I say you’ve got to vet them, and they need to be culturally competent. You need to know, or they need to know, at least a minimum, what our first responders do. What their culture is. Truly understanding? Now, I will never be able to totally understand what they see and what they do every day, but I can tell you, I will do everything in my power to try to use the negative effects, and I try and do that every single day for them.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of A Holistic Approach for Wellness: A Spectrum of Options for a Cross-Functional Team


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