The Unique Treatment Needs of Chemical Dependent Emergency Responders
No matter what your profession – from CEO to pre-school teacher, homemaker to auto mechanic – the every day stresses of work and life can lead to a chemical dependency.
But for law enforcement and emergency responder professionals, the chances of becoming addicted are even greater. The continuous exposure to stress and trauma results in a rate of alcoholism, suicide, divorce and domestic violence that is nearly double that of the general public.
Adding to the problem, for this group who are dedicated to serving the public, there’s often a stigma to admitting to have a problem of any kind and they may be reluctant to seek the help that they need for a chemical dependency.
The challenges of providing for the unique treatment needs of chemical dependent emergency responders include:
- A shortage of treatment facilities that understand a first responder’s needs.
- Lack of departmental understanding and support to get help.
- The need for guaranteed anonymity and confidentiality.
- A difficulty in discussing problems with the general population.
For emergency responders, chemical dependency is not just a personal crisis – it is a problem for the many public departments that they work for. Departments that don’t proactively address their first responders’ chemical dependencies face more than productivity issues – they also may face civil actions and public relations backlashes.
These impacts can include:
- Expensive lawsuits against the department, the city, state or governmental agency that the department serves.
- Distrust between partners having to rely upon chemically dependent partners. In emergency situations everyone needs to have a clear head and react quickly and appropriately.
- Poor department morale that can occur when a member loses his or her job or is sanctioned due to chemical dependency.
- The loss of a substantial investment in training and equipping an officer who loses his or her job due to chemical dependency.
- The potential for negative publicity and loss of public funding for current and future law enforcement needs.
For chemically dependent emergency responders, there is hope. There are specialized programs that understand the stresses and challenges that go along with the profession and whose goal is to return you to a sober, healthy and safe life.