The Pasco County Commission has approved a contract with Tampa Bay Psychology Associates Inc., to provide mental health care support for the county’s firefighters and correction officers.
The county board approved the $223,484.82 contract for fiscal year 2024 to the mental health care provider, which will perform mental health screenings and ongoing care to support the well-being of those public safety employees.
The item was part of the board’s Dec. 5 consent agenda, meaning that the board approved it as part of a package of agenda items without board discussion.
Jon-Michael Morin, president of the IAFF local 4420, which represents Pasco’s professional firefighters, called attention to the item during the public comment portion of the board’s meeting.
In his remarks, Morin noted: “Firefighters are at an increased for anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and suicidal ideations.
“Coupled with the stress of normal life, my members endure long work hours, sleepless life, tragedies of death and dismemberment, and an overall high-stress work environment,” Morin said.
To overcome the challenges, the union established programs that “facilitate proactive education about early recognition of mental and behavioral health crises,” he said.
“We provide additional defusing at the crew level, following certain call types, such as the death of a child or those emergency calls that involve great bodily harm.
“We collectively have changed the culture within the Fire Rescue Department that instigates open dialogue about the risk factors we face as first responders and encourage our members to seek professional help, proactively,” he added.
Morin also noted that the union, in collaboration with Fire/Rescue leadership, have continued to build upon the work that’s been done in the past.
That’s where the county board comes in, he said.
“Where we need your help is before you today on consent, as item C54, with a contract award to Tampa Bay Psychology Associates.
“This award will provide a singular, focused and comprehensive third-party plan for first responder-centric professional mental health counseling for our members and is the vitally important next step of the program design.
“By approving this item, you’ll be sending a clear message to your firefighters that your public safety priority is their well-being, both on and off the job,” Morin said.
Pasco County Commissioner Gary Bradford praised the rescue crews that he said he frequently sees zipping around the county in response to calls.
“I just want you to know that you’re appreciated, you’re prayed for and what you said about the mental health issues is very, very true. Get help. It is important.”
Published December 20, 2023