Deputy Fire Chief, Clifton Fire Department
We don’t provide our services in a vacuum. We don’t provide our services to buildings. We don’t provide our services to corporations. We provide our services to people. We are people who provide services to other people. It’s easy to forget this simple truth. But at the Clifton Fire Department, we’re reminded daily because of our Mental Health First Aid training.
Like many first responders across the country, our department is seeing an increasing number of calls from people who are experiencing some kind of mental health or substance use crisis. This is especially true for us because we provide emergency medical services in addition to responding to fire calls.
In 2013, I took Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training—an intensive 40-hour program to help people with behavioral health disorders access medical treatment and stay out of the criminal justice system. Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, I took Mental Health First Aid Training for Public Safety.
In January, the Clifton Fire Department made a major commitment and engaged the Mental Health Association in Passaic County (MHAPC)[i] to train all 125 members of our team in Mental Health First Aid. We use the tools and techniques we learned every day.
Since completing training, I’ve noticed that there is more conversation about mental health among members of our team, and that is helping reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health issues. People at the Clifton Fire Department are using what they learned in the course in their personal lives as well as their professional lives.
When you are providing services to people in crisis, taking your time, developing a rapport and developing trust is critical. Mental Health First Aid helped all of us develop those skills.
Not long ago, two families were displaced from their homes by a fire. At 2 a.m., the fire was extinguished but one woman was still visibly upset. She was the mother of three children and was unable to reoccupy her home due to the damage.
I talked with her and assured her that she and her family would be taken care of. After a few moments, she said, “You’ve obviously had some empathy training because you and your people have been incredible in helping me and my family.”
This type of reaction from the public, from the people we serve, confirms to me that Mental Health First Aid training is worthwhile. After all, that’s why we’re here—to step out of the vacuum and remember that we are the people who provide service to other people. And Mental Health First Aid helps us do that to the best of our ability.
[i] The MHAPC is part of a consortium created by the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) who with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has formed a coalition of 15 stakeholders under the banner Mental Health First Aid for New Jersey (MHFA4NJ). This consortium is committed to the expansion of Mental Health First Aid in New Jersey.
Photos courtesy of Chris Birkner.
On Tuesday, May 24, Mental Health First Aid instructors and champions addressed a packed room on Capitol Hill to share stories about how Mental Health First Aid has saved their life, or the lives of others in their communities. For the second year in a row, the National Council has hosted this briefing, bringing Mental Health First Aid to congressional staffers during May as Mental Health Month.
Speakers for this briefing included: Michael Allora, Deputy Fire Chief at the Clifton, NJ Fire Department; Alyssa Fruchtenicht, a school-based mental health coordinator from Waterloo, IA; Virgil Meyer, a Lieutenant with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; and Tousha Paxton-Barnes, a U.S. Army Veteran.
Each speaker discussed how Mental Health First Aid has made an impact in their lives—from helping them connect a student and their parents with appropriate treatment, to de-escalating a situation with a prison inmate in crisis using empathy and compassion. They also urged the congressional staff in attendance to support the Mental Health First Aid Act (S. 711/ H.R.1877), which would authorize $20 million in grants to fund Mental Health First Aid trainings across the country. Support and passage of this bill will be a key legislative ask of advocates at next month’s National Council Hill Day.
“Mental Health First Aid literally saves lives,” said Allora. “If you are providing services to people, you need this training. Mental Health First Aid should not be optional.”
The briefing was hosted by sponsors of the Mental Health First Aid Act: Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA). For more information on the briefing and to read the speakers’ full statements, click here.
For those interested in golf or are a supporter please take advantage of this great opportunity.
This outing is a day of fun, competition, and brotherhood.
July 14, 2016
Hyatt Hills Golf Club
1300 Raritan Road
Clark, NJ. (Exit 135 off the GSP)
Look forward to see those who can play, come have some fun.
We look forward to seeing you Monday in Teaneck as the NJ FMBA officially announces our endorsement of Josh Gottheimer for Congress.The response we have gotten has been great, and we have decided to move to a larger venue.This event will now be held at:
Fire Station 4
1375 Windsor RoadPlease join us, along with Congressman Bill Pascrell and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, to show Josh, and especially his opponent who has consistently fought efforts to support firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers, just how strong the voices of the more than 5000 members of the NJFMBA can be!See you at 10:45 Monday morning!
FMBA 21 Brothers and Sister,
FMBA 21 would like to thank all that applied for the four year Scholarship. There were six in total. Although all were worthy, Kevin Danielson’s son Kyle is this years winner.
All FMBA members are invited and encouraged to attend a very important endorsement announcement in support of Josh Gottheimer on Monday, May 23 at
Teaneck Fire Station 2 located at 617 Cedar Lane in Teaneck.The response we have gotten has been great, and we have decided to move to a larger venue.This event will now be held at:
Fire Station 4
1375 Windsor Road
Members are asked to arrive by 10:45 a.m. and wear their union logos.
In what has already become one of the most closely watched races in the country, Josh Gottheimer is running for Congress against incumbent Scott Garrett in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District which covers parts of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.
In Congress since 2003, Scott Garrett has stood against issues critical to New Jersey firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers, worked to deny SAFER Funds to communities across the state, and voted against the James Zadroga Act to provide health care to first responders whose health has been impacted by their heroic response to the 9/11 terror attacks.
We know that once elected Josh will work shoulder to shoulder with Congressman Bill Pascrell and be another strong voice for our members in Washington, D.C. We are proud that Congressman Pascrell will also join us on Monday and lend his support for this endorsement.
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco will also join us at this important event.
Our opportunity to make a change this November starts on Monday!
Hope to see you all there!