Montgomery, Ala. – The Alabama Fire College (AFC), through a partnership with the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH), will expand a peer support program to strengthen emergency responder mental wellness while on the job and off. With the creation of the peer support program, Alabama will be one of the first states in the nation to implement the Recruit School curriculum and allow the Alabama Fire College to enact full deployment of the Alabama First Responder Peer Support Program.
Research indicates many first responders are more susceptible to developing a behavioral health condition or substance use disorder compared to their counterparts. Understanding this and advocating for mental health care of first responders is vital.
This new statewide program originated with the Professional Fire Fighters of Alabama (PFFA) in 2018. “It was very evident from the beginning that the PFFA couldn’t keep up with the demand to assist all firefighters across this great state with their peer needs” says David J. Harer, President of the PFFA. From that point, it merged with the AFC to ensure the program focused on the mental needs of firefighters, specifically in Alabama.
The main objective is to train a group of emergency responders in each of the state’s ten regions in awareness and operational peer assistance. The efficacy and health of first responders are influenced by their mental health. By lessening the stigma of mental illness and by offering peer support, the program can also help sustain a more healthy and productive work environment.
Harer continued, “We are very excited and thankful for Alabama Fire College (AFC) to work with the ADMH.” The peer support program will connect any member with personal, emotional, or professional challenges to a certified peer support member of the fire service. The program will provide mental health and substance use disorder education, referrals, crisis intervention, and more.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health facilitates the training and education for many peer support programs, including supportive employment initiatives. To learn more, please contact the Office of Peer Programs at (334) 242-3456. For more information on the Alabama First Responder Peer Support Program, visit www.afrps.com.