The first step is realizing that you need something more for these employees, Behavioral Health Service. Most EAP products serve civilians well. Utilization has proven to be much lower for First Responder workgroups (i.e. Fire Departments, Police Departments, Sheriff Offices, 911 and EMS). Research has shown that First Responders do not trust counseling services, do not believe that they can help, and do not think their information will be safe and secure (“they will put my business on the street”, or “this will get back to my supervisor”).

Unfortunately, they are often correct. I have seen clients who came to me after seeing another MHP (mental health professional). Their stories make me sad and angry. Just making the call for help is a huge step for them. Not to be taken care of after the fact is nothing but damage; worsening conditions for which they are trying to get help. More Cops die by suicide than by any other means and Firefighter suicides are epidemic on a national scale.

When you, as a Human Resource person, Administrator, or Procurement Officer understand what is needed, it’s much easier to establish a truly effective program. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it can go a long way toward making these First Responders feel valued; something they rarely get from their own Agencies.

Here are 5 things you need to know to establish a Behavioral Health Service that will meet the needs of these employees and their families.

  1. Find out if potential EAP contractors have experience working with First Responders, and how much
  2. Make sure the counselors (“boots on the ground”) on their panels have been identified as experienced with First Responders and their families
  3. If they use “case managers”, ask if they are local to your area and can be accessed as needed
  4. How does the intake process work?
  5. Finally, can you get contact information on a decision-maker that you can call for more serious issues, like mandating employees for workplace behavioral issues.

If this seems like too much, and you don’t have time to do all this investigating, contact me and I can help you navigate this complex system, or…..maybe you just need me to take care of all of this for you. The mentally healthy lives of those who protect and serve us daily should be your priority. It’s up to you.

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