After the Webinar: Creating a Culture of Wellness. Q&A with Wendy Hummell

Webinar presenter Wendy Hummell answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Creating a Culture of WellnessL Increasing Retention, Morale, and Employee Health by Infusing Wellness into Your Agency.  Here are just a few of her responses.

Audience Question: How do you continue to offer quarterly training and support to your peer support team members during a staffing crisis when everybody is overworked with forced overtime?

Wendy Hummell: So, what I have in my policy is that quarterly there’ll be mandatory eight-hour training. With that being said, we have offered our quarterly training since our team’s inception. Not everybody can come for the exact reasons that you just mentioned and so we just revamped the way we do quarterly training. One of the things that we are doing is I am meeting with each individual peer support team, member, going to them, and touching base. Secondly, we’re restructuring, we’re going to have teams, we’re going to have shorter quarterly trainings, meaning four hours versus eight, different shifts, different times, working with executive staff. Because the people that work in our jail right now are on mandatory overtime, and they don’t have the time, like you just mentioned in your question, to come to this training. So, doing what we can to make it accessible, because this is such a priority for the leadership here. We’ve even discussed some alternatives about making this kind of part of that mandatory overtime when it comes out. So, that’s a really good question, because that is definitely a challenge that we have faced by hoping to overcome that.


Audience Question: Is there an association or group for law enforcement or criminal justice wellness coordinators? Is there a list, a map, or a directory of agencies across the country that have these roles? 

Wendy Hummell: That is a great question. I can, the short answer is no, not that I’m aware of, but I’m going to tell you, though, that there are really good resources and communities that you can, you can become a part of. The national resources I referred to with the COPS office and CRITAC there’s communities and resources on their websites. I can tell you here in the state of Kansas, with our FRST Midwest organization, we have a network of peer support coordinators that regularly meet. But it’s really just identifying people that you can talk with and bounce ideas off of. That’s kind of how I’ve done it since I started, but that’s a really good question, that’s a really good idea.


Audience Question: Do you have an Officer Wellness Needs Assessment tool or maybe a survey that you could recommend for use in police departments, to help get data from the officers? 

Wendy Hummell: As a matter of fact, I have a resource for that person who just asked, that, so I just sent that to Chris. It’s IACP, which is the International Association of Chiefs of Police, they have an Officer of Health and Wellness Agency Assessment Tool and Action Planning Road map. So, if you go to that, it’s a really great document to help get you started, and also even has an example of a survey that you can give out to your people.


Audience Question: Is CRITAC available for agencies that are funded by criminal justice agencies, but are private? 

Wendy Hummell: You know, I can’t answer that. So, if you go onto the website for CRITAC, there will be information about who’s eligible and who’s not.


Audience Question: So, in terms of corrections, they have a different stigma, as if it’s like they almost don’t exist. And they often don’t feel like they’re part of the “team”. Many of us feel forgotten, and that we just simply don’t exist within law enforcement, and it’s worse even by our own administration. The morale can be horrible. Where do they start? 

Wendy Hummell: And again, I was just discussing this with our new therapist. There has always been a disconnect between the people that work in the jail and the others. And quite honestly, I came from an agency myself, I worked for a police department. So, my knowledge of people that worked within correctional facilities was only, I would go see them in jail to interview them. And so, once I started working here, it was a very eye-opening experience for me, personally, because I didn’t understand the depth and what the job entails. So, with that being said, what we do here to try to offset that, and I’m not saying that people don’t feel that way here, is our in-house therapist is going in and actually visiting with people on the job and their pods and going to them. The second thing that we’re doing is, with our peer support team, we have people that represent all areas of the agency, detention, commission, and civilian. In pairing people up on our teams, within peer support team members. They’re being mixed detention, commission, civilian. That doesn’t mean that if we have an officer-involved shooting, we’re still not going to just use some commission folks, but we’re mixing people, so we’re training together, so we’re understanding each other’s jobs, which, by the way, the people that that now work in the jail because we are so understaffed our commission folks have started having to work in the jail as well and fill in some of those spots. So, there’s this understanding now and communication of what each other is doing, and I’m hoping that because we’re working together more closely that this will help kind of bridge that gap.


Audience Question: What was your rationale, or what was the impetus for you to actually create the position of the in-house therapist in the first place? 

Wendy Hummell: It was driven by the need. And so, one of the things when I first started this position, that I was very surprised to find out was it wasn’t that we don’t want therapy. It was that we want it but we have these barriers these gaps to obtaining the therapy or the help that we need. Again, just because we have an EAP, the visits were limited. If we want to go see somebody in the community, we don’t even know where to start, which is why we started to vet people for people at the agency. Secondly, can we get in? And, if we can, we don’t make a lot of money in the first place. Some people can’t afford to go and spend anywhere, from the minimum of 50 to $150 to go see a clinician. So, the information that I was receiving back from a lot of people was, we want this, we want this resource. And so, but we can’t necessarily get it. And that really helped drive how we ended up with our own in-house therapist. She’s not a psychologist, she’s a masters-level clinician, she’s got a lot of experience, a lot of training. And what’s really great, too, is that she’s culturally competent. Her husband was a police officer for over a decade, and so, she has some understanding personally as well. So that’s where we landed where we are. And really, with her, when people want to utilize her, it’s not punitive, We don’t use her when people are mandated to go talk to somebody because of something that they’ve done, and it’s a disciplinary thing. This is strictly a service and a resource for the people in their families that work here when they want it.

Host: You just touched on something that’s just so important, that these therapists have that cultural competency of understanding what our cops are going through. One of our friends of the show, Amy Morgan, has a certified first responder counseling program that helps these therapists go through and become more competent in dealing with first responders. So, Wendy, you touched on such a fantastic point. Thank you for doing that.

Wendy Hummell: I’m really glad you mention Amy Morgan, because she’s been a phenomenal resource as well, and it’s really hard for me to remember all of these resources. I actually did interview her on my podcast, but our in-house therapist is going through the training that you just referred to for clinicians, the first responder clinician training.


Audience Question: What roles or tasks does your in-house therapist take on when they’re not providing one-on-one therapy or counseling? 

Wendy Hummell: One thing before I answer that is, the other resource that I sent you, Chris, is a COPS office vetting guide. So, if anybody is looking for checklists like, “Hey, how do I vet”, that’s something that you’ll have access to. So, to answer that question… our in-house therapist will see people one-on-one. So, one of the things she’s starting out doing is she’s going and doing ride-alongs. And started just visiting people in the jail and getting an understanding of what their job is, and building relationships. But she’s also, she has an office. Our office is located a little bit remotely, so it’s not part of any other part, any other area of the Sheriff’s office. You can make appointments to come see her and their family members can as well. But it’s something she completely does on her own. She doesn’t report back to the administration about anything. It’s a resource completely where there —-.


Audience Question: What was the process to get the additional EAP visits? 

Wendy Hummell: So, it’s hard for me to answer, I can tell you what our process was. We just, we have a really great Executive Director at our EAP and we’re very unique here. I told you we’d been working really closely with them over the past several years, and really, I think COVID was the impetus for recognizing the need to expand the amount of visits. And it was something that was really seamless. It wasn’t a very difficult thing for them to do for us. But our EAP is probably structured a little bit differently than most. They are a non-profit. They are like I said, we have a brick and mortar, so we actually have people here boots on the ground in an office, and there are relationships. So, when we were kind of like contract negotiations. This was, was kind of seamless. It wasn’t really a hard, hard sell, hard ask. So, I don’t know that it’s going to be that easy for other people, but for us, but for us, it was.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Creating a Culture of WellnessL Increasing Retention, Morale, and Employee Health by Infusing Wellness into Your Agency. 




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