Harris County Emergency Service District #13 / Cypress Creek Fire Department is awarded a First Responder Mental Health Program Grant

Oct 26, 2020

CYPRESS, TX - Harris County Emergency Service District #13 (HCESD#13)/Cypress Creek Fire Department (CCFD) was awarded a First Responder Mental Health Program grant of $244,081 in federal funds by the Office of the Governor, State of Texas, in accordance with the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) to provide mental health services to first responders. This is the first time that HCESD#13/CCFD has applied for and received grant funding under this program.

Leading this effort are District Chief Jason Corthell and Safety Officer Dr. Elizabeth Fletcher of HCESD#13, and Gabriela Morgan of Valentia Bilingual Therapy Services. These individuals recognized a need in the fire department for funding to provide services for first responders to not only cope with on-the-job stressors, but to address the aftermath of exposure to traumatic experiences.

District Chief Corthell stated, “In today’s challenging times for all, I recognized the need for our firefighters to be equipped with the best tools, mentally, that they could utilize. I am confident that the funding provided by the grant, along with the participation of the stakeholders, will enhance the mental wellness and resilience of our firefighters who serve our community.”

This grant will fund professional counseling services and quarterly education provided by evidence-based trained licensed professional counselors (LPCs) for the responders and their family members. Additionally, a peer-support program will be developed and implemented to assist with acute mental wellness needs. Finally, a unique feature of this grant will include LPCs devoting time to shifts within the department to gain relevant experience with the challenges firefighters face in the line of duty.

Dr. Fletcher added, “First-responder mental health and wellness is an important topic, but full of stigma. Over the past five years, firefighter suicides have surpassed line-of-duty deaths. Historically, surprisingly few resources have been available to address this problem. Through this grant we will be able to create a peer-support program and bring LPCs into the stations to encourage conversations about mental wellness, and hopefully reduce the stigma.”

Ms. Morgan stated, “I am excited to collaborate with professionals of CCFD who are committed, passionate advocates of first responders having access to high quality, efficacious services and treatments that are not only sensitive to fire department culture, but recognize each person as an individual, family, and community member.”

The VOCA grant was awarded October 16, 2020 and will continue through September 30, 2021. Should you have any questions, please reach out to Harris Country ESD#13.

Authors: District Chief Corthell, Safety Officer Fletcher

Editors: Safety Officer Fletcher, Office Assistant Rumfield, Office Manager Hazlegrove