After the Webinar: Corrections Staff Wellness. Q&A with Ronna Martin

Webinar presenter Ronna Martin answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Corrections Staff Wellness: A Team LIFT Approach. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: The organizational culture of many correctional facilities encourages staff to avoid employee assistance programs at all costs, because utilizing EAP may be held against you by promotion boards. How have you dealt with the stigma? 

Ronna Martin:  Oh, that’s a great question. That’s very true. I think there are a lot of people who avoid it for that reason. I can’t say that we have the best practice in place yet to address that issue, but I think that my hopes are that a stronger wellness team and peer support group can help in those times when they don’t want to make something official, but they have someone they can go to, especially if we’re able to build that network, someone that you can talk to. I can’t say I have the best answer for that yet on, how can they avoid some of the problems that come with it? One of the other bigger issues we have to address though is if they really need it, I know they want to avoid that, but you can’t have someone in there walking around with, um, that kind of damage and trauma and hurting and could potentially become a bigger liability too. So, that’s a great question, and I’d like to explore that a little more with some other agencies who may have been able to figure that one out so far.


Audience Question: Interesting item to note effects of trauma on the slides are behavioral and emotional, however, people who have experienced trauma also have increased risk of physical problems including autoimmune disease and chronic pain that I wanted to share that, and so that that rings true? 

Ronna Martin:  Yeah, Absolutely. I mean, you hear that too, when you talk about the book, the body keeps the score. And we know that folks are going to have more manifestation physically too when your brain is not working properly. It’s not just about the behavioral and emotional aspects, so, very true.


Audience Question: Encouraging peers to share the trauma they’ve encountered helps to unload it. The more times, every time I share my story with others, it seems a little more weight drops from my shoulders, and I heal a bit more. 

Ronna Martin:  That’s the point, that is the point. That’s how we want to create that for everybody, Because, yeah, the trust, too, is a factor. You know, a lot of times, they don’t want to speak with their peers about that kind of stuff, because they don’t trust them. And that’s where we feel like it’s even more important to have that network of outside folks that maybe they aren’t necessarily working in your agency, if where you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know if I want to share that with that guy, I don’t want him to know that much about me.” But speaking with those who are a little further removed, but still understand you like, so important.


Audience Question: How often do you meet with your team? 

Ronna Martin:  So, that was originally a monthly group, and I think they met a bit more often once the peer support team was getting launched. Right now, we’re at a standstill currently, but we’d like to get back to at least a monthly model. But, so ever since our pause and it’s been kind of derailed a little bit, we still do monthly communications meetings and we still have a recognition team that they meet monthly as well. So, they’re just not working as cohesively as a network, but they are still meeting on a regular basis. But monthly is typically what we do seek.


Audience Question: What is the difference between a wellness program and a peer support program? 

Ronna Martin:  So, for our definition, a wellness program, encompasses more of the other dimensions of wellness, like we talked about. So, your peer support team is going to be much more specifically focused on crisis intervention, maybe being on-site when there’s an incident when someone is really in emotional crisis or really needs their peer support team. Those folks need more in-depth training. But a wellness program overall can encompass so much more. You can have financial courses led by someone at your Training Academy by someone who is really good with that or knows someone who is. Do they have a connection to someone who can do those types of classes? And it can involve your boosted recognition efforts and your boosted communication efforts. And maybe you’re going to have weekly wrap-ups that you put out to your team internally so that you just keep them up to date on news and whatnot. And so, like, in our pillars, any programs or activities that you also have, maybe you’re organizing cookouts, or our peer support team commander, some of the team members have coordinated a day of fun, where they have some sort of event and just invite everybody that can make it, after their work hours, to just go, do some team building, go have fun, maybe it’s bowling or whatever. So, your wellness program can encompass all of those things. And your peer support team is going to be much more highly focused on just crises and incidents.


Audience Question: Is a partial wellness program better than no wellness program at all? 

Ronna Martin: Absolutely. I would say anything is better than nothing.

I don’t know, it depends on what partial means. If you’ve got something in place where there are folks who are interested in helping and being in a peer support team, that’s better than not having anything at all. If they want to expand that and try to make that a little bit more robust, there are ways to do that and ways to encompass more of those branches, if they want. But, I mean, absolutely partial is better than nothing.


Audience Question: Is your peer support team assigned to this task full-time, or is it an extra duty along with their normal jobs? 

Ronna Martin: That is an extra duty, yes. They do rotate though, you have some of them that aren’t going to be on-call, that are designated to be on-call during particular times, and they rotate those, but, yes, it is additional to their duties.


Audience Question: Does Kentucky have a statute that makes peer support interactions privileged for certified peer support officers? If it does not, I would encourage any associations you’re involved with to try to get one passed. 

Ronna Martin: I believe that it does, but I don’t want to speak without knowing for sure. But I believe that it does, but that is a great point to make. We will check into that for sure.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Corrections Staff Wellness: A Team LIFT Approach


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