Free crisis management training for first responders coming to Springfield next week

Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 9:26 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There is a push across Missouri to help prepare emergency responders for emotional stress on the job.

The state is launching a free training program that stops in Springfield next week. The Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS) has launched a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) training program for any and all state first responders, including law enforcement, fire service, EMS and dispatch personnel.

The training will take place in Springfield from June 13-15. State leaders say the sessions will focus on coping with stress and the psychological trauma that comes from responding to critical incidents. Many first responders say some emergencies leave long-lasting scars.

”I’ve got a call I can remember every sound, everything I saw, the smells,” described Springfield Fire Capt. Lee Grover.

Capt. Grover has been with the department for nearly 25 years, following in his dad’s footsteps. His dad also served with the department for more than 20 years. Grover said certain memories do not go away after the scene is cleared.

“From my first year on here, without being too specific, it was a car wreck,” he described. “And I can remember we had a very, very young patient. I remember working her all the way to the ER, and even seeing things in the ER just stuck in my mind.”

State leaders say they want to take proactive mental health steps. Missouri’s new Critical Incident Stress Management program trains first responders to help them deal with emotional stress they face on and off the job.

”They see many stressful events throughout their shifts, and those do take a toll certainly,” Mercy EMS Executive Director Bob Patterson said. “I think these courses, education, and training will help us and maybe help those folks who attend better understand those triggers and what we can do to help assist folks who might be struggling.”

Greene County Deputy Paige Rippee has attended similar training. She strongly encourages other responders to go.

”In the long run, it could help save a life, not only someone else’s life, but it could help save your co-worker’s life,” she said.

Studies have shown law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.

”We kind of all go through that phase where you shut it off, and then you’re just kind of numb to it,” Rippee described. “But there are times where you got to talk about it, and you have to get your feelings out there. It never helps for people to just bottle it up inside. Talk with your peers. Here at the sheriff’s office, we have the buddy system. Any type of critical incident that happens, you have someone that sticks with you the whole time, no matter what. You’re never really left by yourself. "

Patterson said it is also important to remember that high levels of stress might not just be from one single incident.

“It may not be a significant event that triggers something,” he said. “It could just be an accumulation of events that responders have dealt with over their career. You don’t really know what that particular point may be for an individual.”

Local first responders also say these types of training sessions often teach responders how they can better assist victims of critical incidents, or other people experiencing a mental health crisis.

According to DPS, the training is being offered in two courses:

  • Three-day Critical Incident Stress Management class that combines assisting individuals in crisis and group crisis intervention training. This training is eligible for 27 hours of Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Continuing Law Enforcement Education credit.
  • Two-day Peer-Support Sustainment Training focused on creating and maintaining proactive peer-support teams within agencies or regions.

The training will make stops across the state throughout the rest of the year. It will be back in Springfield in the middle of November and December.

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