Should First Responders Try & Find Their Own Resources?

By Vanessa Stapleton – President Armor Up West Virginia

Organizations like Safe Call Now (the national crisis hotline for first responders and their families) and Serve and Protect (which offers trauma services to first responders and their families) have been around for over a decade. They have been helping first responders, confidentially, find the best help in the country longer than most first responders have been working. They know which programs work, and also which programs are not as effective.

Many first responders, though, would rather just find their own help. The problem with that is most first responders don’t know where to look or even what exactly they are looking for. Programs across the nation claim to have “first responder” programs. Many of them, however, are not equipped to handle first responders or the level of trauma that first responders bring with them to treatment. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes at both Safe Call Now and Serve and Protect ensuring the programs they use are legitimate. Many first responders get overwhelmed trying to find their own help and just give up. The ones that do find help learn quickly what Safe Call Now and Serve and Protect already know…insurance can be a real pain when getting help.

One example of insurance not being willing to treat first responders with the level of care they deserve is in West Virginia. After setting up a meeting with the insurance agency, Safe Call Now and Armor Up America quickly learned why insurance is so difficult. In West Virginia, they will not allow first responders to go out of state for treatment to a first responder facility. They maintain that treatment must be in their state of West Virginia. Yet, they don’t offer a treatment facility or a first responder program in the state of West Virginia. The man we spoke to at the insurance agency told us he knew more about first responder PTSD than any of us who had been working in the field for over a decade. He said that first responders could get the same care in West Virginia as anywhere in the country.

Yet, they don’t offer any of the programs offered across the nation. This gentleman had also never even visited a first responder program. He said that there was no scientific evidence to show that those programs are helpful at all. Our first responders, first responder treatment facilities, and therapists would all disagree. This gentleman basically told us that WV was just fine without treatment programs and facilities for first responders. We would beg to differ as would the 12 first responders we sent out to treatment from West Virginia who are now healthy and back to work. We would also beg to differ with the 9 referrals of first responders needing help that we received in January alone through Armor Up WV. At the end of the day, he told us what it comes down to is “economics.” He meant money. The insurance company cares more about money than they do the mental health and well-being of those who serve and protect the communities in their state. They expect our first responders to perform at a higher level of expectation and professionalism than anyone in the state, but they will only provide the minimum of care to these first responders.

The organizations like Safe Call Now are often battling behind the scenes advocating for first responders with insurance companies. Many people are unaware of the advocacy they do behind the scenes. Yesterday, we had a call from a first responder needing treatment. The particular insurance of this man required a physician referral just to get help. Thankfully, this first responder was not suicidal. It is unfathomable for an insurance company to expect someone who IS suicidal to call their physician, set up an appointment to get a referral, attend the appointment, and then go home and wait. They are asking someone on the edge of a cliff to be expected to do all these things when that person is just trying to live through the day. Now they have to complete steps A, B, C, D, and E before they can even think of going to a program that can help them.

Thankfully, Safe Call Now was able to be Facetime in with the Dr. to rush things along. But would that first responder have been able to move as quickly without Safe Call Now? Probably not. That could take days or weeks to secure an appointment, get the referral, then wait for approval. No wonder suicide rates are so high. When they do try to get help, they are expected to do all these steps before they can even get the help they need. Not all insurance is like this, thankfully. But for those who have this insurance, it can be quite a process to get to the help they need. When someone reaches out for help, every second matters.

The question is, should you go through a program like Safe Call Now or Serve and Protect to find help. The answer is unequivocally, YES. They are experienced at dealing with insurance companies. They know where the treatment programs are that have given the best results. They have vetted counselors across the country. The better question is, why wouldn’t you use them? Their experience alone is beneficial in finding help. It doesn’t hurt that they are all first responders as well. You do not have to exhaust yourself trying to find help. If you have questions about keeping your job, they have been doing this for over a decade. They will be able to guide you in the right direction. Why wouldn’t you reach out to someone who knows what they are doing and has experience dealing with these issues?

If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Confidential Hotline:  206-459-3020

For more information on the First Responders program:  Click here

Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008