XENIA — When Greene County lost its first resident to COVID-19 in March, public health employees cried because they knew she died alone, isolated from her family.
Greene County Public Health Commissioner Melissa Howell described this experience as one of many painful situations that local front-line workers face due to COVID-19. As a result, Howell was one of the people who brought the idea for the Responder Resilience Program to the Mental Health Recovery Board (MHRB) of Clark, Greene & Madison Counties. According to Dr. Greta Mayer, CEO of MHRB, the staff and board have long wanted to create a program like this.
It is confidential and connects current and former front-line workers to care providers who help them process trauma. This can be trauma due to COVID-19 or other aspects of their job, according to an MHRB press release. The program launched on June 29 and MHRB plans to offer it until next summer, though Mayer said they may extend it.
Front-line workers face intense situations and many unknowns related to COVID-19, Mayer said. They don’t know when the pandemic will end or if they’ll have enough medical and personal protective equipment. They’re working long hours and responding to emergencies.
Greene County front-line workers also face the results of COVID-19 in their personal lives, Howell said. Faulty information online worries them. Their kids can’t play sports or have normal graduations. Friends and family members are sick or even dying.
Traumas like these can cause various symptoms, which MHRB listed in the press release.
— Continual fatigue
— Sleep disorders
— Fear of recurrence
— Avoidance of emotions
According to a list of FAQs from MHRB about the Responder Resilience Program, even people who aren’t feeling traumatized should call. They may be unwittingly suffering from trauma because symptoms don’t always appear immediately. When a front-line worker calls, they reach a staff member who asks about their preferences for care and why they’re calling. Then, the staff member connects them to a licensed care provider who will contact them within three business days to make an appointment. MHRB reserve funds will cover the first three sessions for each person. If the front-line worker wants to continue to receive care after the initial sessions, MHRB will work with them to develop an affordable plan.
Each of the 13 care providers have experience dealing with trauma. During the sessions, they will help front-line workers identify what they’re struggling with and give them coping tools. They will also assess whether the front-line worker should seek ongoing care.
Mayer said she hopes the Responder Resilience Program will normalize front-line workers seeking mental health care by making it easy for them to access. This is why initial sessions are free and care is personalized to the individual.
If front-line workers have a positive experience with the program, Mayer hopes they’ll share it with others and encourage them to seek help as well.
“The days of stigma should be long gone,” Howell said, “and people need to reach out for the resources they need, because not only will they help themselves, they’ll also help their families and their community by reaching out early.”
Front-line workers, including first responders and health and mental healthcare professionals, can call 937-727-4097 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to access the program.
Cedarville University senior Madeleine Mosher is an intern for Greene County News.