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‘Helping those who help us:’ New peer support program tackles mental health for first responders

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hundreds of first responders are at risk of suicide and other mental health issues annually. It often goes untreated or overlooked.

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A recent campaign was launched by Lutheran Service Florida Health Systems called, “You’re There for Us First, We’re Here for You Now” to address this issue.

“Due to all the traumas they witness and experience every single day, often times, [former first responders] self-medicate,” Dr. Christina Cauffield said. “There are issues with addiction and alcoholism.”

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Cauffield is the CEO of LSF Health Systems. The organization got a $12 million grant from the Department of Children and Families to fund the brand new peer support program.

“[They] will be connected with a first responder peer specialist, and that peer specialist is someone who has walked a mile in those shoes,” Cauffield said. “They have lived that experience. They know the environment that first responders work in, and they are able to quickly connect and help that first responder.”

The service is open to all first responders and their families. You can call 211 to be connected with a peer specialist.

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