DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday enhanced support for the wellness needs of first responders in Ohio.

DeWine is awarding approximately $1.3 million to three statewide programs as part of the new Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention, and Resilience Program. The programs focus specifically on the unique wellness concerns of law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers and others who routinely respond to traumatic incidents.

“It’s the job of our first responders to care for others, but they must also care for themselves, and having easy access to confidential support is important,” said Governor DeWine. “From crime scenes to house fires to medical emergencies, our first responders face tragic circumstances on a regular basis, and the programs we’re funding today will help these brave men and women with the trauma they experience as a result.”

Entities receiving grants in the first round of the Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention, and Resilience Program include: 

  • Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation will receive a grant of $593,950 to train first responder personnel in the evidence-based Question, Persuade, Refer suicide prevention curriculum to help them become aware of the warning signs, risk factors, and situations that may cause someone to have suicidal thoughts. The foundation will offer train-the-trainer instructor courses so that first responders can educate their peers. 
  • First Responders’ Bridge will receive a grant of $455,000 to offer free, confidential retreats for Ohio first responders and their significant others who are experiencing depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress from tragedies and other stressors experienced on the job. Retreats will include support from clinicians who focus on serving first responders, peers who have experienced traumatic events firsthand, chaplains, and other volunteers.
  • Ohio ASSIST will receive a grant of $363,010 to conduct post-critical-incident seminars that address the mental wellness of Ohio’s first responder community. The programming will focus on mindfulness and resilience, and it will also help first responders understand how on-the-job stress impacts them and their personal relationships. 

First Responders’ Bridge Executive Director Mick Yinger served the Columbus Police Department for 21 years. After seeing many partners and friends die by suicide, he decided to create First Responders Bridge.

“How we started was in February 10, 2018, Westerville Ohio police officers Tony Morelli and Eric Joering were murdered when they responded to a 911 hang up call. We saw a need and decided to do something about it,” said Yinger. 

Yinger’s nonprofit was awarded over $455,000 from DeWine’s grant funding. It’ll help pay for their free wellness retreats available to all Ohio first responders through 2024.

“We are able to continue to do our retreats free of cost, we never want our first responders to pay for their retreats, finances could be their trigger,” said Yinger. “It goes beyond police and fire, even the dispatchers and correctional officers deal with these traumas and we have to take care of them no matter what.”

Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation was also awarded nearly $594,000 to provide Question, Persuade and Refer Training (QPR). Their program helps instruct personnel to look for the warning signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior and how to refer for help.

“First responders are often called to the scene of a suicide as well, and what we know is that those who are often exposed to suicide are at greater risks for themselves,” said Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Program Director Austin Lucas.

They are hopeful with over $1 million funneling into the first responder community, they are helping save lives until not one life is lost.

“First responders have access to lethal means, specifically firearms and the law enforcement community knows how to use a firearm. we know that over half of the suicides in Ohio is completed by firearm,” said Lucas.

The Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention, and Resilience Program will offer a total of approximately $75 million in funding for initiatives that support wellness programs, recruitment and retention, onboarding and training costs, and explorer programs.