After the Webinar: Building a Wellness Program from the Ground Up. Q&A with Wendy Hummell

Webinar presenter Wendy Hummell answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Building a Wellness Program from the Ground Up. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: Did you get any help, coaching, or advice from Wichita State University when developing the program at the sheriff’s office? 

Wendy Hummell: The short answer is, no, I did not. So, early on, this was something that there wasn’t a lot of information on and so a lot of where I got my information and resources came from outside of this area, meaning my local area, which is Wichita, because nothing like this was being done here. And I actually did seek out that resource, but like I said, this is just something that is new, and there wasn’t a lot of information that was available.


Audience Question: We are a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor organization and not a police station or not inside the police station. How do you find grants to support wellness programs? Where should we start? What are some first steps toward finding funding for wellness organizations or wellness programs in an agency? 

Wendy Hummell: I have several different recommendations. So, first and foremost, it’s great because her putting that question out, you got input from other people that have some suggestions. So that’s always the first thing that I suggest is, who is doing similar work to you and asking them how they’re getting the funding similar to what other people did for me. Second, there are some websites out there, so even though I talked about law enforcement specific with the IACP, there’s the Bureau of Justice Assistance, there’s the DOJ, and there are a lot of other grant opportunities that are available federally. But then I also suggest, depending on what type of agency this is, to look at statewide resources, too. And then local grant opportunities. So, in our community, for instance, there are a few local grants that I’ve applied for but haven’t gotten. I’ve only had success on the federal level. But depending on what your community is, what resources are available? I would suggest reaching out to all different organizations that may have a similar mission. Even a non-profit organization that may be able to partner with you so that they can actually advocate and write a grant for you, or assist you in that, could be something to do, too


Audience Question: There still seems to be a stigma and or a big question at least that many officers have regarding getting mental help and support, worrying that such a need might cost them their jobs. Is that still a reality? Have we turned the corner on this perception? And if not, how can agency leadership help to change this perception? That asking for help is not going to be seen as a detriment. 

Wendy Hummell: So, the first thing is yes, it is still an impediment, like a barrier for people to seek help. There is still a stigma. So, although I think we’ve made strides towards that, it is definitely something that happens, that exists. So, if you have a program in place like we do. One of the things that we didn’t get time to discuss in this particular webinar is not only developing a plan but once you have a program, is developing policy. And what’s important about that is having these conversations because one of the questions I used to get a lot, not so much anymore because people know “If I asked for help, will I lose my job?” if I ask for help. Will this impact my ability to do X, Y, and Z throughout my career. The short answer here is, no, it depends on how that all plays out. So, all of these things really tie together and answering this question about all those different steps having that sorted out ahead of time, having a policy in place. At least some sort of an operational kind of idea of what you’re going to do if people ask for help. And then to that point on stigma, one of the things that have really helped at our agency is really getting the people within the agency to start sharing their story. We have, four years later, we have a very robust peer support team, which is really where we started with our wellness program. And many of those people access therapy regularly and they really prioritize their own mental and emotional health. And it’s talked about quite a bit. And so that normalization of what they’re doing has really impacted people accessing those resources.


Audience Question: Do you find that your wellness resources are being utilized? Which services are being utilized most? And do you rotate different types of resources? Are they always changing? Or are you always adding resources?

Wendy Hummell: So, I alluded to this a little bit in the beginning. In that FOP Survey where they measured one of the things they looked at was effectiveness. So, not just the utilization of resources, but what is it that they found the most effective. And we do that here, too. So, one of the things that I do every year is I produce a large end-of-year report because just because we’re doing things doesn’t mean that they’re working. And so, the way just to give you some examples of how we measure whether people are utilizing resources, and if they find it effective is just what I talked about earlier, or a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. So, first of all, we look at how many people are accessing our in-house therapist. We look at how many people are accessing the resources that are EAP. I can tell you that we have tracked before we had a wellness program, and after, and the numbers have risen quite a bit. On average EAP access is about 8%. With our agency, specifically, our sheriff’s office, It’s upwards of 34% usage and I don’t know exactly why that is, but we like to assume here, but we don’t know for sure that just that normalization of those resources explaining to people that they have it, is why they use it. And to measure effectiveness, it’s not just a one-and-done. They’re utilizing the resource over and over again. And then to the second part of the question about changing, and expanding constantly. We are constantly evolving, changing, and growing. One thing I’ll leave you with is that it started with just one person at our agency, me. One full-time person worked in a wellness program, and I reached a point where we had been very successful but one person wasn’t enough. And because of the relationship and the buy-in from leadership, we now have 3 people full-time. And so, we have been able to expand our offerings and grow our program. We’re working on building out the family program next year, adding to what we’re already doing, with a mentoring program, and a lot more.


Audience Question: I’m a dispatcher and my agency has some offerings through HR, such as EAP, a newsletter, and peer support in the department but everything feels disjointed and disigenuine. I’m wondering how best to get everybody connected. She talks about how she wants to link everybody up with peer support, to host events, etc. But I would imagine Wendy, genuine or authentic communication might be pretty integral to a wellness program’s success. But what do you think? 

Wendy Hummell: No, I completely agree. And I’m going to go back to what I said earlier. I think it can be challenging to do something when you don’t have somebody designated to do it as their job full-time. That’s always my go-to recommendation. I realize that’s not always feasible. But it’s very difficult to kind of continually stay up on educating people, putting information out, reminding people, and connecting different parts of agencies. Because what I’ve found, and it sounds like it’s what she’s referring to, is that we have these silos in our organizations where we’re not even communicating internally with each other, let alone externally with maybe other agencies. And so, I have found that having one person do this full time, is to make sure that they have a pulse on all the different things that are happening, that’s probably your first step and my first recommendation. I realize that that’s not something that all agencies are willing to do or can do but then, maybe even just having a person as a collateral duty where you’re providing them X amount hours per week so that they can actually do this. And they can be that resource because one of the things that we’re able to do here is not only support people internally. But we are regularly collaborating with all of our other public safety partners, dispatch, EMS, fire, and other agencies, so that we can work together.

Host: And if you don’t mind, I’m going to put my marketing professor hat on here for just a few seconds and just remind everybody that just because you’ve announced it or told the troops about it once, does not mean it sunk in. On average in terms of marketing parlance and marketing industry standards, so to speak, it takes at least 10 to 13 times for a person to hear a message before it starts to sink in. That doesn’t mean action. So, in other words, you’re going to sound like a broken record.  I think I’m speaking for Aaron when I say this. I know we feel like broken records a lot, and I’m sure we’ve all been parents so we might be able to relate to this. You feel like a broken record. But you’ve got to keep repeating. Would you agree, Wendy? Or how do you feel about that?

Wendy Hummell: Well, if you could see me, I’m kind of laughing. Yeah, I often kind of relate this to being a mom and a parent like telling your kids the same thing over and over again. And it’s how I feel about this as well is that you’re right. Getting in front of people regularly and doing it in a lot of different ways. So, maybe educating people on what you have, what wellness resources you have but not just doing it one time doing that multiple times, but also doing it in different ways. So, maybe you do it with a video, we have videos that go out every week through our communications division, we have an internal website, we have an app. Like, I said, we encourage frontline supervisors to do things. We put on trainings. So, doing it just over and over again, like you said, you’re going to feel like you’re repeating yourself, but I guarantee you, not everybody’s paying attention.

Host: Every employee is going to have their own what I like to call their own “water at the well moment” where Helen Keller realized that finger movement actually meant to a word and connected the dots between a word and something in the real world. Every employee’s going to have their own water at the well moment, or, as Oprah used to call it, their own Aha! Moment. And Wendy to your point, you just got to keep repeating it and repeating it and repeating, because eventually it’s going to stick.


Audience Question: Wendy, you talked about peer support. I would imagine privacy is a pretty big piece of that peer support program, how do you encourage or enforce a culture of privacy in this realm?

Wendy Hummell: One of the things that we started with was our peer support team. And didn’t get a chance to really go into too much detail today, but I will in the course. But to answer the question, every state has different laws, and in Kansas, we have a State statute that governs confidentiality when it comes to a peer support conversation. Most states have something, but not every state does. So that’s why it’s important, depending on where you live, and what area you’re in to find this out. But so as long as that peer support, or in that role has gone through training and that training, the definition of what that training is can look a little bit, it’s pretty big, quite honestly. But we use week-long peer support training. We have our people go through the same one through our first Midwest regional peer support organization, and that conversation is protected. Now there are always exceptions to what that conversation entails and during that conversation that’s made known. So, for instance, in a peer support conversation, you have the peer supporter and the person getting the support. They know that everything is protected, barring a few different scenarios. If that person is suicidal, if they’ve committed some sort of a felony crime, and depending on what your agency policies are, it could be something else. So, barring any of that, that conversation is protected. And so, when people sign on to be peer supporters, they understand that confidentiality. We drill it in. In fact, we don’t just do it once something that we regularly train on in peer support if it is found that confidentiality has been breached in some way we take action right away. Removing that team member and making it known that that’s not acceptable, because one thing that I have learned fortunately, it has not happened here, but with other programs that I have been in contact with. One person, or one breach of confidentiality can ruin an entire program because trust in the program is essential. So, there are a lot of different things that play. But I can tell you that I think it takes time for people to trust peer support if it’s new, and it’s not something that you’ve done.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Building a Wellness Program from the Ground Up.


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