New program aims to assist firefighters
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:21 PM
Aday after the tragic deaths of 19 elite firefighters in Prescott, Ariz., the South Carolina Department of Mental Health announced a pilot program to provide improved behavioral health support for firefighters.
The traumatic experience of a fire department losing 20 percent of its force in one swoop underscored the need for the SCDMH's newest program: providing emotional, mental and behavioral support to the victims of traumatic events.
On July 1, the SCDMH unveiled its Behavioral Health Support for First Responders - South Carolina Pilot Program. Created in conjunction with the South Carolina State Firefighters' Association (SCSFA), the South Carolina Fire Academy (SCFA) and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), the program seeks to expand mental and behavioral health services to the state's 17,500 firefighters.City of Greenwood Fire Department Chief Terry Strange said the need for those services is greater than ever.
"There's a lot of physical and emotional stress," Strange said. "You're sitting here at the station at 2 o'clock in the morning; you're asleep. Then, an alarm goes off, and you've got to immediately pop to and be 100 percent ready to go."
But what concerns Strange the most - and why he is so eager for the program to get started and reach his firefighters - is the added stress a fatality can bring upon first responders.
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