Mayor announces program to address mental health among first responders

Mayor announces program to address mental health among first responders

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has announced a new program to address the mental health needs of EMS medics in the community.

On Wednesday, June 6, Mayor Broome announced the creation of the East Baton Rouge Parish EMS Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CISM). The team aims to provide support to emergency responders to reduce the long-term effects of stress and PTSD.

"I am delighted the CISM team is here to assist medics in coping with day-to-day work stresses and other mental health burdens that can arise from the workload, call volume, and the nature of certain emergency response situations. The team is sure to set an even higher standard in Baton Rouge and strengthen the EMS community overall," said Broome.

The CISM team plans to help first responders by providing pre-incident training, on-site support, psychological aid, peer-to-peer support, and continued care to responders who have unmanaged chronic stress. The team will also respond on-site in the need of a critical incident.

"The CISM team serves those who serve others, and firmly embodies their motto that 'No one fights alone.' The addition of the CISM team helps us take care of our own so that we may provide outstanding care to the residents of East Baton Rouge Parish," said Chad Guillot, director of EMS.

It's never a dull moment for East Baton Rouge EMS. Responding to the unknown, whether it's a wreck, a shooting, or worse, can take its toll. It's why the group has launched the CISM team, focused on mental health.

"We see a lot of bad stuff and we need to be able to deal with those things that we see and be able to talk about it and that's kind of why we developed the team," said Justin Arnone.

That team is all about giving first responders the tools they need to succeed, while letting them know it's okay to ask for help.

"Nobody can deal with the things that we see on a daily basis without asking for help, so the goal is to change that culture and just saying, hey, it is okay to reach out for help," said Arnone.

The program was birthed out of the high number of intense calls worked over the summer of 2016. From the deadly attack on law enforcement to the devastating flood, Arnone says they saw a real need for an outlet for EMTs to process what they face.

"It never ends and we give the analogy of your cup ends up getting full and if you don't handle it as it's getting full, then one day it's going to overrun, and then you're going to have a mess to clean up and that's what we're trying to prevent," Arnone added.

Considering the department has just 13 units to respond to the every emergency call in the parish, the job can sometimes be overwhelming, but the hope is this program can provide some relief.

"It gives them the tools they need to better manage it," said Arnone.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome applauds the program, calling it the perfect way to help those who help the community, something she hopes can be expanded to other departments as well.

"The administration is behind it 100 percent," said Broome. "Mental health is vitally important to the fabric of East Baton Rouge Parish employees and this team will serve as an example of what can happen throughout city-parish government."

A detailed overview of the program can be read below.

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