After the Webinar: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to a State-wide Peer Support Network for First Responders. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar Presenters Angie Jones and Jeff Bragg answered a number of your questions after their presentation, A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to a State Wide Peer Support Network for First Responders: How to Create, Sustain, and Lessons Learned.  Here are just a few of their responses.

 

Audience Question: Could we get a copy of the clinician questionnaire that you used? 

Jeff Bragg: My e-mail is listed, and Angie’s e-mail is listed on there. If you want to send us an e-mail, I’ll be glad to send you that request form. It was nothing that we made up. We, we stole it from a lot of different places. But it gives us a real good place to start with.

 

Audience Question: Are there any certifications that we should look for to ensure that counselors understand the policing culture? 

Angie Jones: That’s a good question. Yeah, I’m super interested in this myself because I was a psychologist, prior to being a cop, and so I’m very particular with who I recommend and how we vet our clinicians. The answer is no. So, unfortunately, there’s not a well-established certification. There are some that can get certified based on references alone. That’s not what I’m looking for. There are some college programs that are starting to cater towards this. And I think we’ll start to see this coming around. I know there are some Ph.D. programs that are looking at developing a curriculum specific for first responders. So, I think that there are a few that are starting to get close to setting good precedent, but and in my opinion, there hasn’t been something that’s, like, “Ooh, we have to look for that.” And the bottom line is we don’t work with any psychologist that we have vetted, that we think are great, culturally competent therapists that have any of those certifications. The one that a couple of them have been through that I, that I appreciate, is they’ve gone through the force science classes to understand some of the police stuff. And that’s really important when we’re sending our people to them, following officer-involved shootings, things like that. I think that this is catching on really quickly. I think that we will start to see some of the certifications. But quite honestly, all the therapists that we work with, they have so much buy in, I can’t imagine they take the time to go take the courses.

Jeff Bragg: I just don’t think that that’s something that they’re going to learn from a course or a unit. I mean, it’s really about being with the people, understanding their culture, and the way you do that is you be with them. So, the ride alongs, the participating in some of the events that we do. That’s how are folks, quite frankly, get vetted. The information sheet is really just a jumping off point, that we can put a name to a face. And then, we put them in the dirt, and we put them in the situations where we’re responding to. And let’s face it if the first reporters don’t like it, you’re not going to, be seen on our website. If they do, there’s a good chance you’re going to be on it.  So yeah, I agree with Angie. I think that there’s going to be more of a concerted effort to develop those types of curriculums. But the end of the day you got to do some of the work and the people have to be able to see it. We’re a unique type of employee that you got to prove yourself to, to us to really get into that group.

 

Audience Question: How do you treat staff suicides differently if at all, then line of duty deaths since you categorize these differently?

Angie Jones: We treat them the same. We offer all the same services, and we work with the administrators in their communication that they’re sending out to their agency. A lot of times, they don’t know what to say, and so oftentimes that lends to them not saying anything, which results in a whole lot of other issues administratively with an agency. So, we work with them on how to communicate to their employees, but we provide all the same services if the agency is wanting that.

Jeff Bragg: Yeah, it’s individualized for each agency, depending on what they’re looking for, but like Angie said, most of them just don’t know how to respond and what they should be doing. So, we just help to let them know what best practices, what other departments have done, what we’ve seen, be real supportive in the past, and that’s, I think that’s gone a long way.

Angie Jones: Yeah, I’ll speak for Jeff’s agency, because they, they had one several years ago that I helped facilitate the response, and they did such a great job taking care of their staff. And we did, just like we would have done, with the line of duty, and in the chief chose to offer debriefs to every single employee. And it was so relevant because we captured a couple of people, we would have never known are struggling with that loss. If we wouldn’t have been invited the entire staff, and obviously in different groups, but to be process through and debrief. So it was, it was a great example of why we don’t want to eliminate people, just because there’s no known relationship.

 

Audience Question: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you offer people who want to start their own organization like FRST that are just in the early stages and planning, or thinking about it? 

Jeff Bragg: It’s like getting to a destination. You got to have a big team. You got to have a bus, and you got to get the right people on the bus. So, I’m a big advocate for being multi-disciplinary. So, look for those people that are already probably doing some of this work already in your area. Get together with them and go from there. We’re more than happy to kind of share some of our mistakes that we made along the way, so you don’t have to make those again. But get the right people on the bus, and that thing will start driving by itself in no time.

Angie Jones: Yeah, the buy in from other agencies is huge. Finding those people that are going to work alongside you, instead of trying to play catch up later, would have been a game changer for us along the way.

 

Audience Question: From a frontline supervisor perspective, what should we be looking for in our officers after a line-of-duty death that may indicate that they’re struggling?

Angie Jones: Oh boy, I deal with this quite a bit. We see a lot of ways. Like I mentioned, we’ll have people try to resign, we’ll have people take extended FMLA. We will also get information – so, we’ll debrief, we’ll offer open debrief for significant others. And we do get a lot of feedback from significant others during this debriefs about how their first responders actually really doing. That’s not used against them, obviously because it’s confidential, but it is knowledge for us to start working with them one-on-one. Some of the things, especially in the police world, are the aggressive policing where their demeanor and their tactics start to change because anger is a secondary, emotion, right? And so that’s easier, ad our job allows us space to execute that. And, so, that’s something to definitely look for, when their tactics and their behaviors start to look different. Or on the reverse side, are they starting to withdraw where they’ve been more of a team player along the way. So, if it’s somebody on your shift that’s been very involved with a team, and then all of a sudden, they don’t want to go to whatever, the game together, or they don’t want to do the things that they normally would, we see people start to distance themselves, because why and create a relationship that can be taken away from me. They don’t know that they’re doing that, but the more walls I can put up, the less likely I am to get hurt.

Jeff Bragg: You know, I think, I appreciate you being the first line supervisor asking that question. You absolutely are the easiest person, other than maybe a significant other, to notice that there’s a problem. And, really, if you’re just noticing a difference in your employee, whether that’s the response, their attitude, their tardiness, anything like that, you’re going to be the first one to say, “Hey, there’s something up,” and just have a conversation with them and honest conversation about what’s, what’s different? I’ve noticed something different, and you’ll be amazed on the kind of information that you’re going to glean from that.

 

Audience Question: Does FRST offer peer support for dispatchers and civilian personnel at a law enforcement agency? 

Angie Jones: Always.

Jeff Bragg: Yes. It’s very important to include what is sometimes called your auxiliary positions. Your dispatchers are no different than anybody else. They’re a first line responder, and sometimes the absolute first responder to any incident. They’re the ones that’s getting the call first, and they have their own network. And we’re blessed to have just an amazing dispatch community in this Metro area, let alone around the state. And that kind of helps us to coordinate that. But you absolutely must be there are, as needed, and have just as many struggles as any other first responder, and we treat them no different.

Angie Jones: Yeah, I would just say that every response that we do, we provide the exact same services for commissioned, civilian, dispatch. You know, some states recognize dispatchers as first responders. So, I don’t want to. Kansas doesn’t yet. But we’re getting there. But yes, we offer the exact same services for all of those, and we always encourage, whoever is coordinating the debriefs, invite their dispatchers or any other civilian staff that was involved. Because a lot of like CSI folks are not commissioned and they’re working the scene, they should definitely be in the debrief for the people that were on scene, and so we worked really hard to identify the appropriate positions, not the appropriate commissions if that makes sense.

Jeff Bragg: If you have civilian staff if you’re developing a team, make sure you have civilian staff on your peer support teams to help those people in your agencies.

 

 

Click Here to Watch a Recording of A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to a State Wide Peer Support Network for First Responders: How to Create, Sustain, and Lessons Learned.  

 

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