The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the leading organization representing the volunteer fire, emergency medical, and rescue services, has been awarded a federal Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) grant from FEMA to focus on responder behavioral health initiatives. The $278,900 grant will allow the NVFC to develop new tools and resources to help volunteers who are experiencing issues impacting their mental wellbeing.
Firefighters have a high rate of many behavioral health issues, including PTSD, depression, and addiction. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance reports that more firefighters and EMS providers die from suicide each year than in the line of duty. To address the need for support services and resources, the NVFC launched the Share the Load program in 2014. This program includes outreach materials to raise awareness about the signs, symptoms, and options for those in need of support as well as a toll-free helpline that responders and their families can call for help with any behavioral health issue.
With the new grant, the NVFC will be able to expand the Share the Load program by working to further reduce the stigma in the fire service surrounding behavioral health as well as make support more accessible. Working with partners including the American Psychological Association, the NVFC will develop tools and training for departments to help them create psychologically healthy workplaces. A national directory will also be created of counselors, psychologists, and other qualified healthcare providers who have experience working with first responders.
“Firefighters and EMS providers experience things on a regular basis that can significantly impact their mental wellbeing,” said NVFC Chair Steve Hirsch. “Having tools and resources to help them cope with the challenges and get assistance if needed is critical in supporting our nation’s fire and emergency services. We thank FEMA for awarding us this grant so that we can continue to help departments address behavioral health and provide real solutions to our brothers and sisters in need.”
The FP&S grant is awarded by FEMA to support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. Previous FP&S grants have assisted the NVFC in developing and implementing groundbreaking health and safety initiatives including the Share the Load program, Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program, Serve Strong outreach campaign, and cancer awareness and risk reduction resources.
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