Wellness on the Front Line™ 2023
October 17-20, 2023
(in no particular order)
Topic: Denying Medical Care to First Responders: How to Reverse the Epidemic
Presenter: Dr. Tomer Anbar, CEO, Institutes of Health
The epidemics of Chronic Pain, Post-Traumatic Stress, Brain Injury, and related alcohol/substance abuse devastate lives, and contribute to untold suffering, disability, and loss of life/suicide among First Responders. While highly effective evidence-based treatment recognized by all medical organizations and insurance carriers exist to most effectively treat such conditions, many First Responders struggle to get treatment authorized, the majority don’t receive scientifically-validated care, others are systematically denied such effective treatment, and most never receive appropriate care.
This presentation will explain what chronic pain syndromes are, and why over 100 million Americans suffer from so many reversible conditions of this nature, and the particularly devastating impact among First Responders. Another common condition that First Responders frequently suffer from is the cumulative effect of trauma resulting from falls and blows to the body, neck, face or head resulting in symptoms related to concussion or brain injury. The effects of these injuries are commonly not recognized, diagnosed or treated by healthcare professionals and are referred to as a “Silent Epidemic.” Post- Traumatic Stress is often equally misunderstood, with Complex PTSD erroneously
believed to be a life-long condition, when in fact it can often be systematically reversed in a short period of time. Moreover, evidence-based treatment of PTS/PTSD typically results in patients having greater resiliency when encountering stressful situations in the future. Along with inherent sleep problems, anxiety, depression and sexual issues, this presentation will also discuss prescription drug and other substance use and abuse, and what constitutes the most effective evidence-based treatments.
The good news is that most of these syndromes, often contributing to disabilities can be very effectively treated. The question is ‘why is treatment so often inaccessible or denied?’ This presentation will describe why in some organizations, treatment is rapidly deployed with excellent outcomes, while in so many others, barriers make effective treatment difficult or impossible to receive. Finally, this presentation will conclude by describing tools to assist First Responders in understanding and receiving best-in-class care.
Topic: Good Cop Bad Cop; When Officers Offend
Presenter: Lisa Morales, Detective (Retired) Miami Dade Police Department
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a law enforcement officer, Detective Morales has also helped to educate sex crimes investigators and other related professionals on the topic of investigating and prosecuting offenders who are law enforcement officers by sharing her own story with them during targeted training courses.
Detective Morales will offer a case study of her own prolonged child sexual abuse by a law enforcement officer. She will also detail the counseling and personal reflection that led to her delayed disclosure, the investigation that followed that disclosure and the strategies used that ultimately culminated in the offender’s arrest and subsequent conviction.
Topic: Equine Therapy
Presenter: David Harrison, Officer (Retired), Paws 4 Success & Cristina Dang, Specialized Mental Health Life Coach
David and Cristina have combined their passion for coaching and horses to help develop the Equine-Assisted Learning program at Paws 4 Success. David is passionate about providing underserved communities access to resources and opportunities to succeed. David and Christina will have their horses onsite for demonstration and questions regarding equine therapy.
Topic: Life After the Pulse Night Club Incident
Presenter: Raul Rivas, Retired Agent, Ambassador with Light House Health and Wellness
On June 12, 2016 at approximately 2am, club goers were dancing and enjoying the music at Pulse Night Club located in downtown Orlando. They had no idea, and never could have imagined what was about to take place. A lone shooter entered the club, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, and began firing into the dance floor. At the end 49 innocent civilians lost their lives.
Police arrived on the scene and began taking action to neutralize the shooter. The incident then changed, forcing the police to change tactics. No one could have seen what was coming next, the situation seemed to be unwinnable.
Raul will talk about the tactics used by patrol and SWAT. What worked and what didn’t. The little-known facts and truths about what really happen at PULSE NIGHT CLUB.
Raul will cover the mental health journey that he traveled before and after the incident. How the Pulse incident showed him that help was out there.
Topic: When the Bottom Falls Out: Recovering from a Multi-Casualty First Responder Event When There is No “Bad Guy”
Presenter: Troy Rodgers, Psy.D., Public Safety Psychology Group LLC, New Mexico
On July 16th of 2022 a tragic helicopter crash occurred in rural Northern New Mexico. All four first responder occupants were killed. Our agency was in a unique position to work with multiple departments during all aspects of the immediate response, follow up care and the recovery process. It is a year later, and the scars remain. This class is designed to discuss the mistakes made, the lessons learned, and the resilience of the individuals involved. It is also intended to provide some degree of a roadmap for other communities who will inevitable be faced with similar struggles.
Topic: Peer Support as a Key Component in the Wellness of Children Welfare Staff
Presenter: Betsy Watson, Child Welfare Supervisor & Shelley Townley, Child Welfare Supervisor, Children and Family Services, County of Ventura
Peer Support helps to enhance self-care practices within a child welfare agency. This is important because research affirms that high turnover rates are correlated to secondary trauma. Learning to cope and having a strong support system is crucial to managing the effects of the traumatic stress affiliated with child welfare work. Peer Support has been found to help workers sustain empathy and compassion, to reframe events objectively and reduce isolation. Peer support work is rooted in a trusting relationship between a person who is currently struggling and or striving to find understanding/assistance. The peer supporter’s history allows them to understand, support and model a sense of hope because they have recovered from similar experiences. Peer support provides unique emotional and practical support for staff.
There is not a lot of data regarding peer support in Child Welfare, but there is data about attrition rates and impacts of secondary trauma. Ventura County Children and Family Services (CFS) decided to adopt a wellness approach as a strategy for retention and adopted a model primary used by Law Enforcement and Fire Departments. We created and developed a program unique to Child Welfare. Ventura County CFS now has a Peer Support Program that supports ——– each year, including referrals for staff involved in critical incidents Peer led RSG which have allowed for group debriefs, time with therapy dogs and seminars on mindfulness and meditation techniques. Ventura County CFS was also instrumental in the development of the Ventura County Peer Support Coalition, which involves all Ventura County Peer Support programs to meet regularly and initiate joint responses for major county events such as the Borderline shooting and the Thomas Fires in November 2018.
Topic: Bulletproof Spirit: Trauma recovery, Resilience, and Wellness
Presenter: Dan Willis, Captain (Retired) La Mesa Police Department
Bulletproof Spirit: Trauma recovery, Resilience, and Wellness. This presentation focuses on the crippling nature of daily work traumas and provides evidence-based, practical wellness and resilience strategies to recover and heal – including E.M.D.R. It provides proven strategies to enhance physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness and resilience.
Topic: Truth in History, Patience in Grief
Presenter: Tim Brown, FDNY Firefighter (Retired),
Tim will tell the story about the day on 9/11/01. The Heroes and Horrors he saw that day and his “dark years,” how he got through them, and how wonderful his life is 20 years later.
Topic: Ranger Resiliency
Presenter: Keith Gordon, ASAC, DHHS-OIG-OI
Presentation detailing my experiences regarding surviving a parachuting accident, the immediate aftermath, the recovery and rehabilitation, and the return to my Ranger unit. This encompasses the challenges of being in a military hospital far from family and my Ranger unit for months. The difficulty of the hospitalization isolation and adapting to no physical activity. The struggles and setbacks of rehabbing after numerous surgeries, including external fixation. The persistence to return to serving in my Ranger unit. Adopting to a new career path after suffering another career ending injury. Including some perspectives from witnessing critical incidents as a United States Border Patrol agent and Office of Investigations Special Agent for over 25 years.
Topic: A Chaplain’s Story: A Look at Faith and Mental Illness
Presenter: Angela Hearns, Chaplain
I will be most honored to share the story of my amazing brother, Theodore Hugo Hearns, who served faithfully as a chaplain for LA County Probation Department (juveniles). He also served adult inmates at Boron Federal Prison Camp for many years. Everyone he served loved him and were always glad to see him. On January 27, 2002, my beloved brother took his life. This day changed our family’s life and impacted the lives of those he served.
I will briefly discuss our journey of grief, anger and healing.
Key components to be highlighted are: Faith is not a contradiction to treatment, The issues of stigma, We are here to help and to be helped, when needed Self-Care is not Selfish
I plan to conclude by a time of questions and answers with my father, Bishop Henry Hearns, to be available to give his perspective on how to overcome tragedy and turn it into triumph.
Topic: 1-2-3 Resiliency
Presenter: Deana Kahle, M.S., LMFT, The Counseling Team International
The effects of critical incident stress and trauma exposure can overflow into other areas of your life. Irritability, withdrawing from friends and family, chronically on edge or exhausted can be warning signs that you are reaching burnout. Resilience is the ability to bounce back and thrive under challenging circumstances. You are the expert on how your life has been impacted by your job, and you have the strength within you to overcome. An understanding of resilience skills can help you harness this strength. Resiliency skills can be taught and are an empowering approach to addressing occupational trauma. In this presentation you will learn the basics of strengthening resilience. Using these tools will allow you to expand your capacity for stress and avoid burnout.
Burnout is the biggest issue facing all employees today, particularly first responders and front-line staff. Understaffed, underpaid, and the increased demand for services have reached an all-time high. In these post pandemic times people are more stressed, depressed and experiencing a level of anxiety never experienced before. Within this one-hour presentation the following topics will be discussed: 1) The importance of resilience 2) Biological science behind resiliency 3) Skills for building and sustaining resilience. In this course, participants will learn how to thrive in the face of adversity, develop a persevering mindset, and use resiliency skills to address occupational stress.
If you would like to review information covering previous conferences, visit our Training Calendar archive section.