Behavioral Health Task Force Update
|The California Fire Service Behavioral Health Task Force reconvened in person to get after the work that is so critical to protect our members as we deal with the mental impact of the rigors of our profession. We don’t get to help others in critical times of need and devastation without suffering the lasting and powerful impact of the calls we go on. The numbers of firefighters suffering depression and anxiety and off job impact from all we see and do none more devastating than firefighters taking their own lives fueled our efforts to break down stigma and resource our members to deal with fire fighter behavioral health and safety issues.
The Behavioral Health Task Force is made up of representatives from California Professional Firefighters (CPF), the California Fire Chiefs Association (CalChiefs), the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), and the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee (Cal-JAC). The purpose of the task force is to identify projects and objectives to assist in behavioral health awareness, treatment, and service delivery to the fire service.
Looking ahead, the Task Force will be developing criteria for a culturally competent clinician program to ensure firefighters are able to connect with clinicians who are trained in the fire service culture. Cultural competency is an essential component of bringing mental health issues out of the shadows.
In response to recent workplace incidents, such as the Station 81 shooting in Los Angeles County, the Task Force will also work on an Anger Management/Conflict Resolution leadership training program in partnership with the International Association of Fire Fighters to build greater resiliency in the fire service.
With the passage of AB 1116, the California Firefighter Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Act (Grayson), which establishes statewide standards for peer support, the Task Force will be connecting with personnel in California.
HealingOurOwn.org will also be updated in the coming months. The original purpose of the site was to break through the stigma in the fire service surrounding mental health. As the stigma, even among experienced firefighters seems to have eased, the Task Force is working hard to make sure all information is updated and helpful tips, trainings and resources are available.
Of particular importance is the work to address workplace violence and hostile work environments. President Gillotte addressed the labor management committee with a challenge to develop best practice standards and policy guidelines that will simply align everyone with the principal that “no one has a right to be at work either verbally or physically abrasive that others feel threatened or unable to work as a team”.
While this is sensitive and will take work to get it right, combining the elements of “reasonable criteria” established by both labor and management to remove someone from service when circumstances dictate along with non job threat, time off and help for the members, training for rank and file and managers to know how to deal with these situations, and conflict resolution and mediation tools are the only way to work to prevent and or eliminate these situations from going to far or breaking apart stations and personnel. We will establish standards and tools that work and have accountability. This effort is also at the IAFF and IAFC level nationally and we expect that the need in so many fire agencies will help fuel our work product.
We also reviewed the Firefighter I curriculum on Behavioral Health and Wellness and we are proud to report that the 8 hour module is straight forward and fire fighter friendly with real life example and no nonsense approach to impact our newest recruits with the tools for behavioral health wellness as they start their careers. We also have a management module to be incorporated in officer classes so that no officer is uncertain as what to do when presented with situations that involve behavioral health and are all too common. We also are working on retiree support also as an ongoing facet of behavioral health both in a reactive manner when crisis hit as well as a proactive manner from recruit to active firefighter to retiree so we may give ourselves a better frame to have a healthy career and retirement.