L-R: Plover Police Chief Ryan Fox, Plover Fire Chief Mark Deaver, Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Luchini, Adam Anderson of Healing Acres, AmeriCorps member Toree Bradley, and Max Trzebiatowski from the Community Foundation Board. (Metro Wire photo)

Group funds stress management training for First Responders

By Brandi Makuski

Portage Co. First Responders will get some additional stress management training, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation.

Stevens Point-based Healing Acres will offer 15 free spots to local First Responders for Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). The training will be held at the Plover Fire Department, and leaders from the village on Tuesday met with representatives from the Foundation, as well as Adam Anderson, President/Treasurer of Healing Acres, Inc.

The idea of CISM has grown vastly in acceptance in recent years. Locally, Stevens Point police spearheaded the notion of training its officers in CISM, and in partnership with the city’s fire department, launched a peer support program and a chaplain program that’s since expanded to the entire county. The programs offer targeted support for First Responders dealing with stress following a traumatic incident — like a violent attack or the death of a child — that can weigh heavily on those who respond.

Toree Bradley works with the Community Foundation as an AmeriCorps member via the Marshfield Clinic Health System. All three of those entities align with what Healing Acres is doing, she said.

“We know all the mission areas that the Foundation supports have everything to do with mental and physical health. It’s really inspiring, seeing how all of the resources in the community connect,” Bradley said.

The importance of CISM training is now the norm at most local departments. Emotional support dogs have been brought on board in Stevens Point and UWSP police departments, and the Stevens Point Fire Department.

But the programming needs continuous attention, Adams said.

“This is an extremely important tool to have available for first responders after critical incidents as it allows them to process through the tragic event and hopefully reduce instances of mental health issues for the first responders,” he said. “The training really impacts the quality of life, and helps you work through the stress in a healthy way.”

Adams knows what he’s talking about. Currently a corrections officer at the Wood Co. Jail, he previously spent nine years in law enforcement, three years in human services/mobile crisis response, and three years working in public schools. He’s served on the Wood County Critical Incident Stress management team since it started about six years ago.

“I started to see how important this was when I got back into law enforcement, I got burned out real bad. I knew something had to be done,” he said. “There needed to be more resources for First Responders, but we say ‘front line workers,’ everyone who works in law enforcement, social workers, teachers, nurses — everybody who experiences stress helping people should have more resources.”

Adams said his programming extends beyond mental health. Healing Acres will be offering yoga classes at CREATE beginning in June.

“People want to show that they’re tough enough to handle these stressful careers. That’s changing a lot; people are talking more about how they’re affected when they respond to some of these tough situations. That’s where critical incident stress management comes in. They’re learning it’s OK to have reactions to the traumatic incidents they see and get peer support,” Adams said. “That’s where my passions come in, to see people know it’s OK to talk about what’s going on, instead of just trying to be a tough person.”