Arizona groups awarded $350K to support first responder mental health

May 18, 2020, 11:30 AM | Updated: 7:18 pm
Phoenix Fire...
(Twitter Photo/@PHXFire)
(Twitter Photo/@PHXFire)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is handing out more than $350,000 in grants to support mental health services for first responders.

“Our first responders are always there for us and we’re going to be there for them too,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Monday in a press release.

“These funds will help drive mental health education and services that support the continued well-being and fitness of our heroes.”

Funding for the $159,920 in grants to United Phoenix Firefighters, $100,000 to EMPACT Suicide Prevention and $96,249 to Marana Health Care comes from the state’s $37.1 million settlement with Wells Fargo in 2018 over consumer law violations.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency medical service professionals contemplate suicide and develop behavioral health conditions at a significantly higher rate than the general population.

The firefighters funding will support two initiatives. One will develop a program to help first responders deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse.

Additionally, a behavioral health case manager will be hired to increase engagement with Firestrong, a web platform that provides state fire departments and firefighters with a peer support network, a crisis support line and other resources.

“Our proactive approach to managing the effects of PTSD and behavioral health have been instrumental in keeping first responders healthy and capable,” Steve Beuerlein of the United Phoenix Firefighters said in the release.

“The grants awarded … will give our programs some much needed resources to continually grow and improve.”

EMPACT Suicide Prevention will use its grant to connect first responders to treatment and train them in mental health first-aid through its Support for Arizona First-Responder (SAFeR) Project.

“SAFeR is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of first responders by helping to change the narrative and mindset from ‘be strong and keep things to yourself’ to ‘be strong and take care of yourself,'” Erica Chestnut-Ramirez, EMPACT’s director of clinical and crisis services, said in the release.

Marana Health Care’s funding will go toward training clinical professionals, community members family members to identify when first responders are experiencing difficulties with mental health that could require treatment.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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Arizona groups awarded $350K to support first responder mental health