Shari Forward is the executive director of the Galveston County Critical Incident Stress Management team, a group dedicated to providing mental health training and resources for first responders after stressful or traumatic events.
STUART VILLANUEVA/The Daily News
A nonprofit organization is working to help first responders deal with on-the-job trauma and grief after crisis.
The Galveston County Critical Incident Stress Management team is a volunteer organization that provides stress management intervention to agencies that seek it after a crisis or emergency situation, members said. The program offers different levels of help to responders, their families and the agencies, members said.
“We serve and have served many of our emergency services and first responder departments including fire, EMS and law enforcement, along with our volunteer fire departments in Galveston County. And several in Brazoria County are supporters of our team and utilize our services,” said Shari Forward, executive director of the nonprofit.
“Several of these departments have their own peer support teams, as well,” Forward said.
There’s a difference in Critical Incident Stress Management and peer support, she said.
“So, our team is utilized even in these departments where they have a peer-support team,” she said.
“Peer support teams consist of individuals who are part of the same agency or organization as the first responders they support. These peers often share a similar professional background and firsthand experience of the challenges faced by their colleagues.”
The organization’s services include crisis preparation, community support programs and debriefing and defusing, Forward said.
“We encourage people to build teams in their own work or agency, join us for trainings and support each other regionally,” said Amanda Groller, clinical director for the nonprofit.
“There are so many responders of so many kinds in our community. It is deeply important to me that everybody knows that they all have a shoulder to lean on. We’re in this work together and the more that we can promote this resiliency in all the work that we are all doing, the better we can serve our community.”
The organization helps responders deal with line-of-duty injuries and deaths, suicide of a colleague, large media events, events involving children, fire fatalities, cases of injustice, such as a child death from a DWI, bombings and drownings.
“Our services are often provided by specialized external teams, composed of trained professionals who may come from various backgrounds such as mental health, counseling, clergy and emergency service responders,” Forward said.
“The services provided are designed to offer a more comprehensive and structured approach to managing critical incidents, neutral and objective, specialized training, psychological expertise, confidentiality and a variety of perspectives.”
One local agency taking part in the team’s services is the La Marque Police Department.
“When there is a shooting or an incident that may cause trauma, we call in the team and call a focus meeting,” La Marque Police Chief Randall Aragon said. “We talk in a group, vent and work to resolve the issue and provide knowledge. We are all human and need to make sure our officers are OK.”
The Galveston County Sheriff’s Office also uses services from the team.
“The services provided by the team are invaluable,” Sheriff Henry Trochesset said. “In the aftermath of an event like the Santa Fe shooting, it is important to have resources. It is not natural to not need to be debriefed after something like that. You can’t put a price tag on a tool that can assist in these circumstances.”
The benefits of Critical Incident Stress Management include the ability to maintain health and productivity, prevent traumatic stress effects, restoring personnel to normal functions, enhancing the environment the individual lives and works and crisis education, according to the organization.
Services by the Galveston County Critical Incident Stress Management team are free and confidential.
Original Article from Galveston Daily News
Trace Harris: 409-683-5247; The Daily News galvnews.com or on twitter at TraceH_news