Deschutes Co. Sheriff’s Dept. launches program to promote mental, physical wellness

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s has launched a new program promoting mental and physical health for deputies.

The “Health of the Force” initiative is a modern way for deputies to get help when they are struggling.

Because of the nature of policing – long hours, odd shifts, sometimes dealing with trauma and tragedy – law enforcement officers are often stressed, which can negatively impact their on-the-job function.

“It’s an avenue for them to get resources and get help,” said Capt. Deron McMaster. “And have somebody who has experienced those things and know what it is like, to come alongside them and put their arm around them, and help them find a resource that is going to be helpful for them”

The sheriff’s office reports more than 180 deputies and spouses signed up for the training.

You can read the full initiative below:

In 2019, 228 law enforcement officers in the United States took their own lives.  The profession of law enforcement is, per the metrics, one of the most potentially dangerous and traumatizing careers in the country. https://www.officer.com/command-hq/supplies-services/public-awareness/news/21119956/report-228-us-law-enforcement-officers-died-by-suicide-in-2019 

“The law enforcement profession is stressful on our deputy sheriffs, and their families. I work with great teammates. We want to do all we can to improve and take care of them and their families in order to ensure successful careers in providing excellent public safety and customer service.  This enhanced Health of the Force program will provide additional tools and resources for deputies to care for their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.” Sheriff L. Shane Nelson

Deputies are exposed daily to events and incidents of incomprehensible tragedy.  They work 12-hour shifts, both days and nights, which often involve overtime. They are expected to function at a high level of awareness and self-control regardless of the crisis and trauma they are called to respond to to ensure public safety.  These and other factors generate stressors that can, in time, become detrimental to an officer’s physical and mental health.

“Wellness programs for law enforcement personnel are showing up all over the country, guided by the expertise of psychologists, researchers, physicians, fitness trainers, and spiritual leaders of all stripes. These programs are showing significant promise in the reduction of officer-reported stress, improved job performance and satisfaction, and more effective decision making abilities under stress. “ Dr. Kris Falco, Psychologist, Police Services 

For a few years now, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has been doing research in the field of law enforcement officer wellness for retention of personnel and expansion of services.  Given recent events, we acknowledge the necessity and urgency to launch the new Health of the Force Initiative (HOFI). This 21st Century program, supported in part by grants, will not only enrich our current peer support program, but enhance the current partnership we have in place with the Central Oregon Public Safety Chaplaincy (COPC).

The agency is aware that this is only scratching the surface of changes that need to take place to better serve our community and ensure that all people of Deschutes County are and feel safe.  The Health of the Force Initiative is an immediate action the agency is taking to initiate the process for improvement and change.

“Psychological resilience in law enforcement personnel is especially important in their careers and wellness programs are vital in this process. Programs focusing on managing daily stress, cumulative stress, and critical incident stress can be a powerful tool in building resilience. Having a healthy resilient workforce benefits them individually, supports their family, and ultimately benefits the communities they serve.

Access to culturally competent mental health clinicians is an integral part in ensuring the success of a law enforcement wellness program. Due to the current situation with the COVID-19 global pandemic, a unique opportunity has presented itself – the ability for individuals to access critical clinical intervention services electronically using Telehealth. I have been providing treatment using this audio/video technology service since late March 2020 to many law enforcement officers including more members located well outside the Portland metro area with great results. I am honored to be part of DCSO’s mental health clinician team.” – Dr. Garen Weitman, Weitman Psychological Services, PC

Behavioral Health and Substance Dependency Care and Treatment 

The Health of the Force Initiative institutes a voucher system for “no questions asked” behavioral health counseling.  Ten highly respected local providers have been established so your Deputy Sheriffs will have timely and appropriate opportunities to seek help for themselves and their immediate families.  The Initiative includes our administrative and non-sworn employees and our incredible Search & Rescue/Reserve Deputy Sheriff volunteers. We have had several employees utilize this voucher system four counseling.

“Physical, mental, and spiritual wellness is key to a strong and fulfilling career in law enforcement.  The COPC enjoys a great partnership with the Sheriff’s Office and is excited to support them as they grow their peer support and wellness program.” Chaplain Joel Stutzman, Central Oregon Public Safety Chaplaincy. 

Physical Wellness

Last fall we reached out to Dr. David Dedrick.  Dr. Dedrick is a board-certified sleep specialist and medical director for the St. Charles Sleep Centers in Bend and Redmond. He has been in practice in Central Oregon since 2002.  We are scheduled to have cardiac scans for those who want to participate in individual sleep studies to determine their quality of sleep.  We are providing yoga and chair massage to on-duty deputies and promoting mindfulness training. These are holistic practices shown to successfully relieve and reduce stress.  In developing the Initiative we partnered closely with the Bend Police Department whose officer wellness program received high marks in the 2019 U.S. Department of Justice Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness study – https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-p371-pub.pdf 

The Sheriff’s Office is currently offering heart evaluations and calcium scans for our staff and their spouses. We have reached out to Sigma Tactical Wellness to conduct these evaluations. Sigma has shown potential in eliminating catastrophic effects of cardiovascular disease amongst first responders.

Proper exercise and diet are also important for effective stress management.  We are investing in our La Pine substation to provide a gym using some donated exercise equipment.  In addition, funds are being budgeted and grants are being sought for a modular building to be purchased in the future for gym and training space at our Bend public safety campus.

The Sheriff’s Office received a grant of over $111,000 to be used for our peer support program. The peer support program provides our public safety employees an opportunity to receive physical, psychological and emotional support through times of personal or professional crisis. This money will be used to provide training and technology to members of the peer support team as well as therapy referrals.

Summary

This Initiative will ensure our employees are healthy and properly prepared to contribute to our public safety mission. To implement this Initiative all DCSO leaders, supervisors, and managers will receive training to better prepare themselves to participate and promote this critical program actively and constructively to our staff.

“The mental well-being of the men and women who serve and protect our communities is every bit as important as their physical health and safety. Our nation’s law enforcement officers—and their civilian colleagues—hear and see things every day that most of us are fortunate we never have to imagine,”  Phil Keith Director Office of Community Oriented Policing Services U.S. Department of Justice Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness.

 

 

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