|1/22/2021 1:31:00 PM|
Taylors Falls Fire
Dept. first in area
to enroll in PAR 360
When you spend time in the universe of First Responders, the importance of being pro-active cannot be over-stated. Going on a call? Make sure you have what you will need. Dressing for a fire? Make sure you have protective equipment on. Take your training seriously.
The thing that’s been missing from this preparedness picture, according to Taylors Falls Fire Department Chief Jacob ‘Jake’ Vodenka Reed, has been the firefighter’s mental health. Last week city council members gave the go-ahead to spend money to set-up Taylors Falls first responders and firefighters as the first department in this county, to participate in PAR360.
It’s the same reasoning for why departments have equipment like self contained breathing apparatus, or why they do incident simulation training, or launder gear after working a toxic fire scene. “We do a good job with cancer prevention and physical health,” Vodenka Reed says, and mental health should be just as automatic as everything on the checklists.
Starting in 2021— for Taylors Falls firefighters anyway— it will be.
The city will spend $4,200 for the department members to enroll in a mental health program called PAR360. The expense is eligible for about an 80 percent reimbursement through the state’s Board of Firefighter Training and Education.
MN BFTE was created by the legislature in 2003 and is funded through surcharges on fire insurance. It enforces and helps provide quality and consistency in firefighter training throughout Minnesota.
This year the mental health program comes out of the city general fund, and Vodenka Reed will work the cost for PAR360 into the fire department regular budget for 2022 and beyond, he explained. The non-reimburseable portion should run about $800 annually.
But for a few hundred dollars—the value is immeasurable, he explained.
Vodenka Reed has had personal experience with PTSD and the trauma involved in the horrors firefighting entails. He said “This provides mental training and straightening to be pro-active in fighting PTSD before it’s too late.” The big positive with this is it addresses mental health issues ahead of time with on-going regular skills development and through resources it delivers to a firefighter.
“Firefighter suicide and burnout are leading causes of death in the industry. I know firsthand the struggle of finding and receiving quality help when you are in distress.” Simply having the provided names of vetted care providers and therapists, and having a contact person to reach out to, saves time and potentially lives, Vodenka Reed stressed.
The first year of PAR360 involves a strategy of resilience and leadership and sets a culture in motion, according to the program materials. Year Two is keeping the forward momentum going, addressing hot spots (they use alot of firefighter lingo) and monthly communications with an expert to discuss current issues.
The Taylors Falls department will connect with Dr. Margaret Gavian, Medical Director of MN Fire Initiative. She has 13 years as a therapist, in private practice working primarily with law enforcement and first responders.
Any first responder who is feeling overwhelmed can always get in touch with the crisis line for peer assistance, call 888-784-6634