City of Irving (TX) Police and Fire Departments | Inaugural Symposium on Mental Health, PTSD, and Suicide Prevention

City of Irving (TX) Police and Fire Departments | Inaugural Symposium on Mental Health, PTSD, and Suicide Prevention

City of Irving (TX) Police and Fire Departments

State: TX

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City of Irving (TX) Police and Fire Departments | Inaugural Symposium on Mental Health, PTSD, and Suicide Prevention

2023 Comprehensive Wellness Winner

The City of Irving is the second largest city in Dallas County with a population of 256,684. Irving is one of just seven Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) cities with more than 200,000 people and one of the inner ring Dallas suburbs. Additionally, Irving is one of the most diverse cities in the country, also known for being the home of ten Fortune 500 headquarters.

The Irving Police Department (IPD) employs 403 sworn officers and 233 civilian personnel. The Irving Fire Department (IFD) employs 408 firefighters and support personnel amongst 12 fire stations. The Public Safety Wellness Unit (PSWU) was created to meet the needs of first responders from both departments. Also included are detention officers, dispatchers, retirees, and their families. The IPD First Peer Support Program was started in 2016 in response to the suicide of one of their officers. In 2019 the program expanded to include IFD before evolving into a comprehensive Public Safety Wellness Unit (PSWU) in 2021. To preserve privacy and confidentiality the Wellness Unit became a separate division under the City Manager’s Office. Both agencies still maintain a robust peer support network.

The PSWU’s full time wellness unit consists of three staff members: a senior manager, who is a licensed psychologist, and two clinicians. The psychologist, Dr. Mildred Betancourt, is a nationally known speaker and subject matter expert in mental health among first responders. The senior manager functions as the program coordinator, oversees clinicians, coordinates Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) interventions, develops trainings, acts as liaison between police and fire peer support groups, and coordinates assistance to other police and fire department through the DFW CISM Network. Services are available 24/7 to provide early intervention and stabilization shortly after a critical incident.

The PSWU’s goal is to target unhealthy response behaviors and provide strategic interventions for those at risk of developing mental health conditions due to job stressors. Training and education begin at the academy level, building a strong foundation for first responders. Training for new supervisors is mandatory so they learn the signs and symptoms of a person in crisis and may respond with appropriate resources aid in resiliency and recovery. Dispatchers are provided psychoeducational training by clinicians during routine check-ins.

Ongoing training for employees and their families includes emotional survival, self-care, suicide prevention, financial management, alcohol, and drug addiction. Spouses receive additional training regarding vicarious trauma.

The PSWU has introduced Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) protocols into their Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) debriefings, following a critical incident. EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experiences to bring these to an adaptive resolution. EMDR has been clinically proven to be an effective treatment for many suffering from PTSD.

The unit has also implemented Biofeedback as a technique used to control physiological responses, such as heart rate. The individual is connected to electrical sensors that help them receive information about their body. Neurofeedback is a training method that helps the brain to self- regulate. Additionally, neurofeedback addresses the trauma resiliency within the brain.
The unit implemented a Suicide Prevention Campaign called “Let’s Talk About It.” It is an internal suicide awareness and prevention campaign to inform and educate the public safety departments, administrators, spouses/family on prevention, signs and symptoms, resources, and what they can do to help someone expressing or at risk of suicide. Since 2016 the program has successfully intervened with 26 individuals.

The IPD and IFD have their own Peer Support Teams that work with the PSWU. In the City of Irving, all CISM interventions after a critical incident are mandatory to decrease stigma associated with post incident care. The City of Irving has partnered with the new Law Enforcement Peer Support Program NAMI North Texas. This organization developed an inter-department peer support network to cover the North Texas region. Irving has also partnered with Responder Health to provide an additional venue for first responders to seek help. Responder Health provides a variety of services such as vetted clinicians in and out of state, vetted inpatient facilities for mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as 24/7 confidential telephone access to other peers for consultation and/or crisis intervention. First responders may receive 30-day leave, with no charge to their sick time, for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

The City of Irving maintains a 22,772 square-foot training facility for fire and police personnel. The facility includes a full-size gymnasium with free weights and a separate, enclosed area containing various types of workout equipment. The physical fitness program is part of the City of Irving’s iWin program offered to all employees. Officers and firefighters can work out while on duty but are required to have their radios on in the event of a callout.

The city’s iWIN program is designed to motivate employees to live healthier lifestyles. This is the city’s employee health incentive program. General government employees who earn 400 wellness points from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 8, 2023, will earn a monthly financial incentive of $130 starting October 2023.

The “Blocker Program” utilizes “retired” fire apparatus to protect first responders working active scenes along the city’s roadways. Five vehicles were repurposed at a cost of $15, 200. In 2018 a vehicle struck a “blocker unit”, saving a $1.2 million aerial tiller-truck. In 2019 a “blocker unit” was responsible for stopping a vehicle from colliding with 10 Irving Police Officers investigating an accident.

In July 2018, the Irving City Council approved an agreement between the city and CareATC to open an employee health clinic. The clinic is available to employees and retirees, as well as their spouses and dependents, enrolled in one of the city’s health insurance plans.

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The submission contains stats and charts that should be reviewed to understand the effectiveness of their programs.

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.

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