The LSU Health Department of Psychiatry provides essential training and treatment services through rural and urban parishes and responds to critical needs of the state following catastrophic events. First responders are the backbone of rescue and recovery from these events. Firefighters, EMTs, and law officers protect the general public often at a great personal cost. The Mental Health Support Hotline will provide first responders and other crisis support personnel with helpful counseling and behavioral health professional interventions. The Department of Psychiatry is well established to develop a significant response to address the impact of COVID-19 on multiple aspects of the behavioral health of our communities in Louisiana.
We depend on a commitment to duty and a high level of job performance of first responders. Unfortunately, self-care and the ability to reconcile personal exposure to traumatic incidents are not always available. If support is available, it may not be effective in addressing unresolved reactions to the impact of trauma exposure in order to empower workers to feel as confident as possible in their personal and professional endeavors.
A recent survey of over 4,000 first responders reported that many programs provide nominal services rather than high-quality counseling and treatment resources. High-quality interventions and supports help to address PTSD symptoms, depression, extreme levels of stress, and substance use disorders.
The overwhelming impact of COVID-19 will affect first responders and frontline health and security personnel for a substantial period of time. By addressing these issues of exposure now, we can successfully mitigate aspects of the pandemic on Louisiana’s emergency workforce, improve job satisfaction and accessibility to others. Without addressing the extreme impact of COVID-19, we may risk jeopardizing our first responder workforce retention as well as the personal well being of individual workers.
Funds will be used to establish a virtual platform to provide access to the secure support line for outreach and counseling sessions. A virtual webinar will be developed to discuss the efficacy of this intervention model and the required components. Funds will also be used to train the staff providing services in crisis intervention and counseling methods during and following disasters.