The police occupation has been identified as one of the most stressful occupations. Officers deal with a range of issues from maintaining order to the apprehension of law breakers. Stress comes from a variety of sources, including critical incidents, organizational stressors, and work-family interference. Police populations have been known have higher rates of substance abuse, divorce and domestic issues, and suicide when compared to the general public and most other occupations. Historically, we have not been open to using services to help reduce or treat stress. We are often concerned about the confidentiality of services and the stigma that might affect our careers should we ask for help. Today there are many options for police officers and these options provide confidentiality. There is no need for any officer to feel ashamed to reach out for help. This page provides a list of services that are currently available to LMPD and NPD officers. Services range from professional help outside the auspices of the police department, to peer-support options, to department-provided options. If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress from the job or in your home life, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family, is to reach out and talk to someone.
Listed below are a number of options for police officers facing stress from the job, personal, or family problems.
Peer Support Options
Peer Support Officers- Lodge #28 has a number of trained peer support officers ready to assist in times of need. These officers have been trained through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) in individual one-on-one crisis intervention and in some cases group crisis intervention. Some officers are members of the Montgomery County CISM team. Please contact Conductor Joe Braun or President Goschinski for referral or confidential advise.
Here's how the peer support system works. Peer support officers can provide one-on-one support to officers going through a crisis. They can be contacted to provide this support at the scene of an incident, or contacted at a later time. Often, a peer support officer will be contacted by an officer's supervisor or fellow officers when they know an officer has experienced a critical incident. The peer support officer may recommend further services or refer the officer to additional resources. Peer support officers are fully aware of the need for confidentiality and no reports of any kind are made concerning peer support. The only time a peer-support officer would breach confidentiality is if the officer poses an immediate risk to themselves or others, or if they have admitted to committing an offense that the officer is required (by law) to report to the authorities (i.e., child abuse).
Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM): Some of the peer support officers are trained in group crisis intervention, meaning that they will participate in debriefings after critical incidents. However, we do not conduct debriefings of our own officers. If a debriefing is requested, the Montgomery County CISM team will be contacted and will provide peer trained officers from outside the department to conduct the
debriefing. The department, at times, may make attendance at a debriefing mandatory, however participating is always VOLUNTARY. Only those who were directly involved in the incident will be allowed to attend the debriefing, regardless of rank. Pennsylvania Law protects the confidentiality of CISM debriefings. What this means is that nothing said in the meetings can be used in any court proceeding (criminal or civil) without the expressed, written permission of the officer making the statement. This is great protection for officers that was fought for by our State FOP lodge. Click here to see House Bill 1332 (called the CISM bill). Like the one-on-one services, no reports are made of critical incident debriefings. When other jurisdictions have critical incidents, they may call on our officers who are part of the MONTCO CISM team to participate in a debriefing in the other jurisdiction. It is a team effort.
MONTCO CISM Program: If you feel uncomfortable contacting LMPD peer support officers, but need to talk to someone, you can make contact with MONTCO's CISM team (through the emergency dispatch center) to receive a call back from a team member- 610-631-6541. For more info on MONCTO CISM, visit their website here.
Pennsylvania State Police MAP Program: PSP has a great Employee Assistance Program that is run by peers (state troopers). While it is predomiently to serve PSP officers, they will be happy to talk to officers from other jurisdictions and provide services and referrals. If you do not want to use LMPD peer officers, this is another great option to utilize peer services. The toll free number to MAP is 1-877-709-7674.
Department Provided Options
Employee Assistance Program: Lower Merion Township Contracts with HMS health services to provide EAP services. These services include referrals to mental health professionals (psychological professionals, therapists), marriage counselors, family counselors, substance abuse programs, financial counselors, and virtually help with any other issues an employee may have. You do not have to notify anyone in the department to initialize these services. The toll-free number for the HMS provided EPA services is 1-800-343-2186. This number is open 24 hours/ 7 days a week. Services provided through HMS are confidential, meaning that the EAP service providers will not release details on your use of services to the department or the township. There are only three reasons they could contact the department: If they feel that an employee expresses an immediate threat to themselves, to others, or the employee has reported committing an offense that the service provider is mandated to report to the authorities (i.e., child abuse).
Department Referal to a Service Provider: Police departments are allowed to refer their employees to a service provider. Some circumstances that may cause departments to require an officer to be evaluated are officer-involved shootings (even when it is clearly a justified shooting), erratic changes in officer behavior, officer involvment in domestic situations, or when officers are suspected of having substance abuse problems. As such, the department has a right to receive a report from the service provider. This is often called a "fitness-for-duty" evaluation. While the service provider is bound by professional standards of patient/doctor confidentiality and they cannot reveal what was actually discussed, they can make a recommendation for treatment and give their professional opinion on an officer's fitness for duty.
Lower Merion Township also has an employee wellness program through Deleware Valley Health Insurance Trust (DVHIT). Officers are eligible for rebates for gym membership and other healthy choices. Contact LMT Human Resources or check online at DVHIT.com.
Clergy/Priest/Pastoral Counseling: Your local pastor or priest can be an excellent source to help deal with stress and stress-related problems. At present, neither the department or the FOP have a list of clergy.
Family Doctor: Your family doctor is also a good first step to helping address stress-related problems. He or she may also be able to identify medical treatment to relieve stress and anxiety.
Friends of the Lodge: Lower Merion FOP Lodge 28 has a number of close friends and supporters who have helped our brothers and sisters in time of need and challenge. They have directed our members to services and provided services at little to no cost. Don't feel alone or ashamed. Contact Vice President Braun (215-840-4241) or Chaplin Goschinski (267-973-3756) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.