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Idaho Responders Put TRUST in Peer Support

With the lingering strain of COVID-19 and other stressors facing those in public health and safety today, there is a heightened concern of negative impacts on responders’ emotional and psychological well-being.

As one of the largest departments in Idaho, the Idaho Falls Fire Department (IFFD) took the initiative to promote and improve the mental health of its personnel. Over the last 3 years, the IFFD has worked alongside the Idaho Falls Police Department (IFPD) to implement a peer support team, named TRUST (Traumatic Response Unified Support Team), that helps foster an environment supportive of the well-being of its members.

The Idaho Falls Fire Department's TRUST team (Photo: ImageTrend)

Through TRUST the IFFD established a partnership with a local mental health counseling center to provide up to 3 visits at no cost to department members for any individual incident. Idaho’s legislature passed a bill in 2019 that covered post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic stress injury among first responders under Workers’ Compensation, ensuring claims are no longer the responsibility of individual members.

With suicidal ideation and suicide attempts within the fire service also increasing, IFFD partnered with 2 local hospitals through TRUST to ensure members receive VIP status and have their privacy closely guarded to protect them from any shame or professional stigma. The VIP status restricts patient care information to only those providing care, as well as providing additional privacy to individuals seeking treatment with a room away from the commonly used treatment areas. They are allowed  to enter with their faces covered.

The IFFD provides assistance through TRUST to active and recently retired members, as well as their immediate families. Working alongside TRUST is a chaplaincy service the IFFD uses to assign 1–2 chaplains to each fire station to simply visit for a cup of coffee or after stressful calls. The chaplains are also dispatched when needed for incidents to assist victims, families, and first responders.

“We are very fortunate to have local elected officials, administrative personnel, and medical providers who wholeheartedly support this program. We are also grateful to our partners in public safety at the Idaho Falls Police Department who built the foundation for the TRUST model for our department to build upon,” says IFFD TRUST member Whit Albertson. “Breaking down the stigmas associated with mental illness in the fire service is no small feat, but we are committed to getting our personnel the assistance they need.”

TRUST and IFFD were finalists for ImageTrend’s 2022 Hooley Awards in the Service category. The Hooley Awards recognize innovators and thought leaders, honoring their involvement, creativity, and passion, and were founded to acknowledge their innovation and excellence. The Hooley Awards finalists were celebrated and the winners announced during the 14th annual ImageTrend Connect Conference in July.

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