Tri-State Peer Support helps first responders recover

MIAMI TOWNSHIP, Ohio – To cheers of “Who Dey” and toasts at the tailgate, Amy Foley and Lt. Jim Petrie Tri-State Peer Support Team They got a chance to share their mission with Cincinnati fans.

With the scene of the Monday Night Football crash at Damar Hamlin still fresh in the minds of many of the attendees, Bengal Jim’s Before the Roar Tailgate Experience called them to explain the toll these emergencies can take on first responders. In the weeks since, fans have raised thousands for the organization to help provide mental health care to first responders across the region.

What you need to know

  • The Tri-State Peer Support Team connects first responders to mental health resources
  • Tailgaters have helped raise thousands for the regional organization
  • First responders have higher rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide
  • Mental health symptoms can take weeks or months to appear after a traumatic event

When Petrie is at his Miami Township Fire and EMS job, some days, he says, he has barely a second left. There can be anywhere from two to 20 shift service calls and Petrie said it’s hard to know which ones he’ll keep on his mind in the following weeks.

“If the family is present, it’s emotional. This is a tragic event for them and we come and try to mitigate everything we can,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t get any of that processing time.”

Miami Township Fire and EMS personnel practice responding to cardiac arrest. (Taif News 1 / Michel Alvini)

Petrie said he’s seen the toll it takes on himself and his fellow employees, and after the death of a Claremont County deputy sheriff on duty in 2019, other departments around the region began calling for help as well.

Foley, who was already building a mental health support program for Claremont County, saw an opportunity to expand that system as she formed partnerships with firefighters and emergency personnel in Cincinnati and the western suburbs.

She said, “We were on to something.” “We needed to find out who were the doctors who were culturally competent, who could treat our first responders.”

What happened next was Tri-State’s Peer Support Group, an interdepartmental network in greater Cincinnati to share mental health resources, offer help when they can, and refer first responders to doctors and other professionals who can help put them on the path to recovery.

“We’re giving them the help they need so they can get back out there and continue to do this work,” Foley said.

Lieutenant Petrie shares resources with Miami town officer Lieutenant Hirsch. (Taif News 1 / Michel Alvini)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty and EMS providers have a suicide rate 1.39 times higher than the public. Even one in four public safety telecallers has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

For Foley, the trauma that took them there was on full display as the entire stadium and national broadcast watched emergency medical personnel respond to Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest.

“Watching the team and seeing their faces, you can see that this trauma affected them greatly,” she said.

Foley said it could take weeks or months before those in the field come to terms with the trauma they may have experienced and start seeking help. That’s why she thinks it’s so important that groups like hers are available and willing to help out soon after.

With Hamlin’s recovery progressing rapidly, she said she was glad to have the opportunity to discuss the role of first responders and what they may have been through that night and each day on the job. Foley hopes he won’t be forgotten soon.

“Talk about us gave what we were doing a lot of credibility abroad and people were very kind and generous,” she said.

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