DETROIT (WXYZ) — An extensive audit of the Detroit Fire Department reveals high levels of stress among firefighters and medics, the city announced Friday.
In response to the findings, Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallett said the city is committing to significantly expanding its employee assistance program for the entire Fire Department.
The review was launched in late March after two on-duty alcohol related incidents involving DFD personnel raised concerns about work related trauma and stress.
Mallett led the review, which interviewed 225 DFD personnel from both the fire and EMS sides.
The report highlights the fact that the department has just one peer counselor, Lenette Woods, and notes that one counselor is not capable of servicing a department with 1,000 members.
The report makes two recommendations:
- Establish a more robust peer-to-peer counseling program that will be staffed at all times by no fewer than four trained and certified counselors who are members of the department
- Review departmental leave policies and make adjustments as needed to ensure they are supportive of the needs of some department members for meaningful substance abuse recovery opportunities.
Mallet expects to have a full implementation plan developed within the next 60 days and for the new staff, program and policies to be in place later this summer.
“What we learned from this process is that many of our firefighters and medics are struggling to cope with the trauma and stress they face every day and that we, as a city and a department, have not done enough to support them,” Mallett said in a press release. “Instead of having a robust peer support program to turn to, some turned to alcohol or other inappropriate behavior as a coping mechanism. It’s not right that we ask these men and women to be there for us during our time of crisis and we haven’t been there for them during theirs.”
According to the report, firefighters, paramedics and EMT's are at a heightened risk for depression, PTSD and suicide when compared to the general population. Additionally, based on assessment responses, Detroit first responders were largely unaware of the City of Detroit’s employee assistance programs.
“The fire service is a great career option and allows individuals to serve others by saving lives and saving property but there are dangers associated with choosing a career as a first responder. For example, this audit identified the danger of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression,” said Eric Jones, Executive Fire Commissioner, in a press release. “Therefore, we must ensure that we provide robust resources to the men and women of the Detroit Fire Department so that they can adequately cope with this danger. I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendations listed in the audit. I will work with my colleagues to begin the process of implementing these recommendations.”
Read the full report below: