It’s been a busy few months, so I haven’t updated you all as frequently as I’d like. October presented some challenges that we were able to work through with everyones help, and I greatly appreciate your support in doing so. We’ve come a long way, but there is still work to be done!
As of today, we have handled 17 requests for help have been processed and met this year. When we advertise these numbers, there are people who are engaged in whatever form of assistance they require. We do not count the emails, texts, and phone calls looking for general information or who choose not to engage in wellness. We have three people being monitored. This means that they or someone on their behalf reached out for help, but have not chosen to engage as of yet. When they do, we can activate the care plan designed for them and move forward. As much as we enjoy being able to help, the basic truth of someone’s willingness to change is going to overpower any external efforts. If you aren’t ready to be well again, we have to wait until you are, but know that we will be there when the time comes.
Donations have picked up this year and it has allowed us to expand and cover more services for people in need. Donations and your support are the core of what keeps our mission going - it cannot be done with you. We have been able to provide $2,195 in direct assistance ranging from basic things like gas assistance so people can make appointments we arrange for them, assistance with food for them and their families until other resources became available, assisting with the cost of medication, covering copays for treatment, and arrangements for care through our provider network. This doesn’t seem like much to the outside world, but this has made the difference in several peoples lives and accounts for roughly 70% of our budget. I do my best to keep our costs low so we can maximize what we do, however like any business there is still a bottom line that has to be met in order to keep going. The interesting thing about being included in various donation networks is that there is always a fee lurking somewhere, and someone always gets paid before we do. It’s just how the game works, but overall I feel that we’ve been pretty successful this year, and I have you all to thank for that.
Giving Tuesday is coming up as well. On Tuesday, November 28, Facebook is waiving fees to nonprofits and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is matching donations to a total of $2 million or $50,000 per nonprofit. Since we have access to all of Facebook’s nonprofit tools, we will be participating in this as well as other year-end giving. Any and all support is greatly appreciated and goes to work! If you feel so inclined, you can start your own fundraiser for us right through your Facebook account and it is automatically transferred to us. It is also free for you to use and pretty simple to set up. We have several peer to peer fundraising campaigns out there for now using another platform and those will be active until January. I’ll elaborate more on that in the later months for those who are curious. Unfortunately, receiving the funds from this platform takes some time.
We are working on getting some quality education and seminars to Eastern Connecticut. We are in talks with a few programs and organizations to make this happen. Often the challenge in finding the right venue and then keeping the price manageable. We are looking for quality, accredited classes and programs versus the standard 90-minute slideshow presentation that most of us are acquainted with. They are out there, but putting everything together is often a challenge and time consuming. We will get there, it’s just going to take some time and patience.
There is some active conversation on additional partnerships and resource sharing with other organizations who share our vision and willingness to change the landscape of how people are cared for. We prefer to “play nice” with others, particularly when our work is mutually beneficial. I occasionally come across the perception that I am “protecting my sandbox” and not interested in working with others. I’m not entirely sure why that comes up - it’s not anywhere close to true and I’ve met and worked with some really great people since we began and continue to do so. Networking is important for our mission; and I’m happy to engage with others. The purpose of our work is to take care of others, so if we can maximize on that, I am all for it!
We are continually working on expanding our network to include more quality providers and additional programs. If you know a provider or service that you think we should look into, I’d be happy to. We have rejected five providers this year; and I’m not sorry about that. They had issues with professional references and reviews, patient satisfaction, licensing requirements, professional background, and insurance fraud to name a few. If I would not see them myself, I will not send someone else there. There is no point in having a resource network if you can’t vouch for what they do or trust them.
Our care funds come and go with what we do, but even with the relatively small amount we collect and disburse, it has made a noticeable difference for many. We will be looking to increase our care fund reserve over the next year as to avoid delays in being able to provide financial assistance and secure programming or treatment. Neither of these are cheap, however we do the best we can with what we have and rely on creativity (and sometimes begging) to fill the voids.
We are beginning to put together a seminar designed for supervisors and others in command in the public safety industry. The seminar will revolve around identification and management of employees or members who may be headed for trouble or displaying warning signs of such. This project is in it’s infancy, but will be instructed by various accredited professionals with letters after their name like Ph.D and LCSW among others. The class size will likely be small in order to accommodate direct communication and involved conversation or discussion on topics and likely will be hosted as a retreat. We also plan on involving subjects like the mind-body connection including exercises in mindfulness as well as the specific types of Yoga that are effective for our first responders in mitigating stress. I have been offered the use of a beautiful cabin with a lake front view, so I will be looking into that.
Our partnership with Honor Wellness is moving forward, but there are still some details to iron out with opening. Phyllis is working hard on making this happen, and we are happy to assist in any way possible. This will be the regions only wellness center designed for the needs of first responders. She has the experience and background to make this an incredible resource and the drive to make it happen.
We will begin discussions with Dr. Grant-Hall to bring her series about trauma and it’s effect on the brain to more people. She is currently in her busy season with engagements and professional obligations, so as time permits we can move forward.
A program is being developed that guides employers and organizations through creating effective employee assistance and wellness programs - and done cheaper while being tailored to the organization and it’s people, not a blanket everyone is forced to conform to. A trial site is being selected soon and the first version should be available by the end of 2018.
We added the Center for Compassionate Recovery in Madison, CT. CCR is a resource and outpatient treatment center that focuses around opiate recovery. For anyone who has dealt with issues in this area, you already know how difficult it can be. We had our first referral to them some time ago and I am happy to report that they are doing well and are making good progress in recovery. The care through CCR has been amazingly effective and a positive influence. I got the opportunity to talk with Dr. Marc Bono a few weeks ago on his radio show as well. He is a very caring and insightful person, and running against the grain of the norm for opiate care, he takes the treatment of his patients seriously by working for them. It is a wonderful change of pace for this area of care. I look forward to working with them in the future and getting people to proper care instead of having them get prescriptions thrown at them.
Chiropractic Center Of Norwich has done a great job taking care of our sore backs and necks for the past year. They were kind enough to come through in helping one of our people and without worrying about money and insurance status and focusing on our mission and the person. They work very well with our first responders providing no-hassle visits and are understanding as well as accommodating when coming while on duty. Effective care is often difficult to find, but being willing to work with our crazy schedules and challenges deserves recognition.
Our partners at New Beginnings Behavioral Health in Norwich have been busy taking care of our referrals and have been doing a great job of it. Phyllis took care of some people for us recently as well and things are looking up for them. A quick shoutout to Charlene - I have not forgotten you, I just have not had anyone from your area call me lately!
We have three more providers looking to join our network and we should have this process finished up by the end of the year. As mentioned in the past, we take our time doing research before we include providers into our network. It is also a bit busy on both ends, so often this takes longer that I’d like - but we will get there!
The MyID Program
I’ve gotten a few perplexed looks over this, but after some explanation everyone has been supportive. Locally we have a young man named Dominic with a rare immune disease and he has special requirements while taking care of him. I have been in contact with his mother and through conversation it came up that no good way has been figured out to keep his medical information on file and easily accessible in the event of any emergency. Being the naturally (and often unusual) curious creature that I am, I started to look for some solutions. I found a company called MyID who makes medical jewelry and accessories that are quite different than what we are accustomed to. Every bracelet, sticker, card, or other device has a QR code along with a PIN and access code that pairs to the persons account and profile. First responders and other emergency workers can scan the code with their phone, go to the website and enter the numbers, or call the phone number to access their information. This is all included on the device and there is no yearly subscription (unless you buy an upgraded profile) and there is no limit to the information you can put in there. It’s a secure system that can be accessed without any special equipment. We set Dominic up with one as well as an upgraded account so all of his important information is in one place and can be accessed without difficulty.
So why did we do this? It is an odd and normally overlooked stressor to our emergency personnel when trying to care for someone and not having access to pertinent information to provide treatment. As a career Paramedic, I know that trying to manage someone with a complex medical history is already difficult, but compounding the stress of the situation by not having immediate access to important information makes the job more difficult. Seeing the opportunity to bring this technology to our area, I jumped at the opportunity to do so. It is not expensive and they are well made. We have teamed up with MyID to start a program to get these out to the community using our network and reaching out to organizations who help others. So far, we have been able to give away nine MyID bands to people in our area with complicated medical histories. We have a few meetings setup with local organizations to explain the program and offer these at less than retail price in order to encourage participation. We do sell them on our website and Facebook page at retail price. This is so we can roll the “profit” from the sale back into providing these for free and to help fund our work. Our veterans, retired or disabled first responders, and people with special needs or complex medical issues are eligible to get one at no cost or discount when possible.
These are particularly valuable in our senior citizens. We are all familiar with the various paper forms and junk mail envelopes that many carry around with old information written on them that are often given to us. The key to bringing this program to this demographic is to establish a point of contact to set up and maintain the basic information to ensure accuracy. We have a meeting with a local senior center this week who has volunteered to be one of our pilot sites for this. You can find out more about the program here, and if you know someone who can benefit from this, please let us know. We do have special rates available for other nonprofits or organizations who help people.
Though working on a small budget, I have been able to do some things for our supporters and donors as well as help with our awareness and outreach. The first round of lapel pins came in a few weeks ago. They turned out to be far more popular than I had expected. It was a three month endeavor and quite an experience finding a manufacturer who produced something nice and without having to refinance my house to order them. Almost the entire first order has been given out or sold. It has also been a good experience to go through this process and engage or re-engage with our supporters. It’s not much, but I do try to show gratitude for the people who have helped me along and support our work when I can. As soon as I can justify it, I will order another batch. If you are a donor or supporter and haven’t gotten one yet, please let me know!
The Emotional Trauma Life Support (ETLS) class is an internationally recognized program that teaches first responders about grief, loss, and trauma for themselves and the people they deal with. I was lucky enough to connect with them, and after some time planning and figuring out costs, we were finally able to get this series to Connecticut. The Voluntown Fire Department has graciously agreed to host us in April, 2018. Tickets are now available for sale through our website. We do have special rates for our supporters as well as block purchase and alternative payment options for organizations who wish to send people, but you need to contact us in order to arrange this. The objective of this is not to make money for the organization; being able to put this offering together is part of our mission to eradicate the problems with mental health, suicide, and leading people to substance misuse within the first responder community. This class is a total of 16 hours and focuses on evidence-based information and education designed specifically for the first responder community. These do not come around our area often, and we worked hard to be able to provide this. We hope to have a full class in April and hope to make this a yearly offering.
I sincerely appreciate all of your support and help over the past two years, and I know the people we help do as well. If you have a suggestion or want to help, please
Dennis Cole - President