Winner | Officer Wellness
McHenry County (IL) Conservation District Police Department
2023 Traffic Safety Winner
The McHenry County Conservation District Police Department patrols approximately 40 square miles in McHenry County, Virginia. They are a department of 11 sworn officers led by Dr. Laura King, Chief of Police, who holds a doctorate degree in psychology. She began the department’s comprehensive wellness program in 2019.
Submission for 2021 Award
In 2019, the department’s wellness program consisted of a few incentives including an annual wellness fair. Officers received a monetary stipend to help offset associated health club memberships, were provided flu and vaccine shots, had access to an employee assistance program (EAP). Under her leadership, Chief King sought feedback from her officers on how a comprehensive wellness program could meet their needs. A committee was created to build the program. Core elements, such as physical fitness, stress management, nutrition, and mental health were identified as critical needs.
At the outset, a room was selected to be the department’s gym. With a budget of $500.00 the room was equipped with basic equipment. Working with the local High School the Department was able to secure additional equipment and time was built into each shift, allowing officers to work out on duty. In nine months 73% of officers were using the gym regularly.
Attention to mental health and suicide was a priority. Officers received access to a peer support program and suicide awareness/prevention training from the Bureau of Justice (BJA) VALOR for Blue and SAFLEO (Suicide Awareness For Law Enforcement Officers) programs. Access to the VALOR app on department issued cellphones reminded officers to be physically and mentally prepared for the job. Officers are sent to the VALOR for Blue training program as it is available. The families of the officers receive informational material from the EAP alerting them to available resources. Further promoting awareness to the dangers of suicide, officers signed a Destination Zero agreement in which they acknowledge the resources available to them for help and that they will not choose suicide as an option.
The agency joined the ‘We Never Walk Alone” program to provide anonymous and effective peer support. At the cost of $2 per officer per month, this is an investment that ensures comprehensive peer support is available for all officers needing help https://weneverwalkalone.org/faq). The program has more than 310 trained peer support officers from more than sixty agencies in Illinois. The program also has a network of 110 vetted mental health professionals from across the nation in the event the officer wants to seek out clinical support. This puts a network of culturally competent clinicians at their fingertips and makes it easy to find resources and help all in one place. The WNWA app was put on all agency issued phones to ensure officers had quick and easy access to the program and all its resources. The program has a phone app and offers support via phone or text in addition to the option to meet in person. WNWA services are extended to family members, telecommunicators and retirees.
The department trained 20% of their officers as department peer support officers who have profiles on the WNWA app and website and are available to help our team members, as well as people seeking peer support from other member agencies. The program is confidential, secure and 100% anonymous for people seeking support.
The Department moved to a 10-hour schedule, giving officers every other Friday-Sunday off. This allowed for more quality time with their families.
A Vitamix blender was purchased as a gift for the Department and the Chief provided fresh fruit alternatives to employees in the squad room. Attention was given to clean and healthy nutritional alternatives as a way to promote overall health. Tracking data from 2020 noted that these changes resulted in a 300% increase in self-initiated field activity and a decrease of 65% in use of sick time.
Program Improvements Since Last Submission
In 2021, the Department looked for meaningful ways to expand the program. This included certifying a team member as a personal trainer, who could provide customized workouts for employees. Officers received a book of functional fitness to encourage them to continue investing in their personal health. In 2022, the department took a hard look at their existing programs designed to focus on employee engagement. Though the department had a 73% participation rate, the Chief was determined to understand why 30% of the team was not using the wellness program. Chief King wanted a program that worked for everyone and sought feedback to reach 100% engagement. The result of those conversations led to the implementation of indoor cardio options that could track progress through instructor led workouts. A Peloton exercise bike was subsequently purchased to meet these needs. An accountability calendar allowed officers to track their progress and gift cards, purchased by the chief, were awarded monthly for the employees with the most logged rides.
In 2022 a comprehensive wellness evaluation was implemented and made available to all employees in the form of a health assessment. This included bloodwork screenings offered at no cost. Family members on the officer’s health insurance could take part in the program. In support of health benefits, the MCCDPD trained one of their team members to become an NCI Nutrition Coach Specialist for First Responders. In addition to nutritional education, personal training is available, at no cost, to team members.
The department continued its efforts to provide employees with a proactive EAP program. Lifeworks offers unlimited assistance and is available by phone or online. Officers downloaded the app onto their department phones, giving them access to unlimited counseling sessions. The program is confidential and offered at no cost the officers and their family members. The department also joined a county wide co-responder program giving all team members access to a police psychologist.
A December 2022 department study found that 90% of employees were taking part in the workout programs with 80% reporting a drop in weight. 100% of department members reported feeling supported by MCCDPD.
This summary is only a brief overview of many of the agency’s programs. In the actual submission you will see that the agency has other programs and incentives to benefit its members. Please review their entire submission and its associated documents to gain a complete understanding of their program.
ResourcesMcHenry County (IL) Conservation District Police Department | Family Financial Literacy
McHenry County (IL) Conservation District Police Department | Health and Wellness Policy
McHenry County (IL) Conservation District Police Department | 2023 Officer Wellness Nomination
McHenry County (IL) Conservation District Police Department | 2023 Officer Wellness Executive Summary