A large number of firefighters retired after 11 September 2001. These retirees were confronted with multiple challenges, including grief, trauma- related physical injuries and psychological distress, difficulties related to the transition of their roles, and deterioration of social support.
The Fire Department of NewYork (FDNY) Counseling Service Unit's “Stay Connected” Program designed and implemented after 11 September 2001 is described in this report. This unique program was designed to usea combination of peer outreach and professional counseling to address the mental health needs of retiring firefighters and their families.
Descriptive information about the intervention program was gathered through semi-structured interviews with Counseling Service Unit staff. Client satisfaction surveys were collected during three six-week periods.
Quantitative data indicate that clients rated their overall satisfaction with the clerical and counseling staff a perfect 4 out of 4. The report of their overall satisfaction with the services also was nearly at ceiling (3.99 out 4).The perceived helpfulness of the services in resolving the problems experienced by the clients increased significantly over time.Qualitative data indicate that peer involvement and intensive community outreach, i.e., social events, wellness activities, and classes, were integral to the success of the intervention.
This project provided valuable lessons about how to develop and implement a “culturally competent”intervention program for public safety workers retiring after a disaster. Creative, proactive, non-traditional outreach efforts and leveraging peers for credibility and support were particularly important.