Treatment for First Responders
Substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment for first responders is available. First responders who may worry about coming into contact with people from the community while seeking treatment may find that a full-service treatment center away from their home provides the provision of privacy they are seeking.
Treatment programs which may be recommended include:
- Inpatient drug rehab, which refers to settings where patients live on campus or in near-by sober living facilities. These programs typically last approximately one month.
- Outpatient rehab refers to non-residential treatment programs and varies greatly in the level of intensity. In the case of intensive outpatient programs, a patient may engage in treatment services several times a week while in other situations, a person may go to individual therapy weekly or bi-weekly.
- Medical detox refers to facilities staffed by medical professionals who can provide treatment to ease a patient safely through the detoxification process.
Some approaches which may be used in any of the above types of treatment programs include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focused on the relationships between a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions. CBT works to make changes in thinking patterns and behaviors with the intent of causing a change in emotional experience.
- 12-step models may be used as a framework for therapy as well as a complement to services. Most communities have some form of 12-step fellowship, which can provide peer support during and after treatment.
- Group therapy is commonly used and can help a person become more aware of their issues in an interpersonal context.
Challenges For First Responders Seeking Treatment
Many first responders may avoid seeking treatment for many reasons, such as:
- Fear of judgment
- Stigma on the job
- Real or imagined lack of access to treatment
- Financial concerns
However, more organizations are recognizing these barriers and taking steps to make treatment more accessible while reducing stigma or other job-related concerns. The Police Executive Research Forum has published discussions between police chiefs regarding substance use by officers. While there are still very different perspectives on how to handle substance use and mental health disorders that develop due to on-the-job stress, these discussions show a significant shift towards the promotion of wellness. For example, The San Diego Police Department created an officer wellness program that has been reported as helpful in promoting awareness, wellness and resiliency in the agency.
Treatment Facilities Specifically for First Responders
There are even treatment options that cater specifically to first responders. For example, The IAFF Center of Excellence provides services specifically to firefighters experiencing substance use and co-occurring mental health concerns. Other programs may include some specialized therapy groups or other services for first responders.
As a first responder, your job is to help others. Now is the time to help yourself. Substance use and co-occurring mental health conditions are treatable. Help is available, but you must take the first step. Contact a representative at The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions.
Graves, Keith. “How Much Drug Use Occurs in Law Enforcement?” In Public Safety, September 11, 2017. Accessed August 30, 2019.
Smith, Derek R., et al. “Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption among Police Officers.” The Kurume Medical Journal, February 2005. Accessed August 30, 2019.
Samhsa.gov. “Disaster Technical Assistance Center Supplemental Research Bulletin First Responders: Behavioral Health Concerns, Emergency Response, and Trauma.” May 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.
Community Oriented Policing Services. “The San Diego Police Department’s Officer Wellness Program.” June 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.
Police Executive Research Forum. “Police Chiefs Discuss a Tough Issue: Alcohol and Drug Abuse by Officers.” September/October 2012. Accessed August 30, 2019.