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A Talk About:

Our Local Heroes Support Program on Frontline Forward Radio

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Local Heroes Program is Featured on Frontline Forward Radio

Our Heroes Program provides 30-day intensive residential treatment for First Responders suffering from addiction and mental health issues at no cost. Up to 50 First Responders will be able to benefit from this program over the next 12 months. Learn more about the Trafalgar Local Heroes Support Program.

Scott Jones (our Director of Community Partnerships) and Kinga Burjan (our Clinical Director, Virtual Integrated Programming) were a guest on Frontline Forward Radio (FM 98.5 CKWR) with Bryan Stevens on December 8, 2019.

They discussed the stigma and PTSD related issues First Responders deal with, and how Trafalgar had established a program to help this community cope with addiction and concurrent disorders.

You may listen to the show or read the transcription below:

Transcription of The Radio Show

Bryan Stevens: Well, you want to talk about your big thing you got going on, because t’s really big.

Scott Jones: Yeah. We’re really excited about it. So Trafalgar has been treating First Responders for many years now. You know, probably since with the passing of the legislation in 2016, there’s been a priority of treating first responders who are dealing with, PTSD, depression, anxiety, maybe substance abuse (and behavioural abuse). And, you know, we’ve been telling these folks, you don’t have to live by with this by yourself. You don’t have to suffer alone and that there is help out there. And as we were just sort of talking, the First Responders are asking for help. And we had better have the programming and services available to them. And as Kinga mentioned (the first part of the radio talk), unfortunately, with some of the OHIP facilities you can wait months and people don’t have months to wait. We’ve recently seen in the media First Responders are taking their lives because of the depression and the symptoms associated with PTSD. This is a massive wake-up call for everybody. You know, First Responders typically serve and protect us. And so I think it’s time for us to maybe serve and protect them, too. I just came up with that and it’s so true.

Bryan Stevens: Yes. It’s fantastic.

Scott Jones: And so that’s what Trafalgar is trying to do with our Local Hero Support Program. We launched it a couple of weeks ago. And we are providing 50 free admission beds.

Bryan Stevens: Free?

Scott Jones: Free, yeah!

Bryan Stevens: It is crazy!

Scott Jones: …For the First Responder community. We’ve deliberately left the First Responder definition as broad and as flexible as possible. We’ve had everybody from, you know, firefighters and police to youth outreach workers reach out to us and ask, do I qualify this type of thing? So it’s essentially close to a million dollars of treatment costs to us. And we are, Trafalgar, extremely happy to provide this care for the First Responder community.

Bryan Stevens: I mean, it’s it’s bigger than big. You know, Scott, you and I were talking earlier and you were telling me about this coming together. And then I spoke to some of the executive there, Trafalgar, about what you guys were about to do. And I’ll tell you, like, we’re more than happy and proud to be part of this, to getting the word out, because this is big. It’s really big. And I think it’s gonna have a huge impact.

Scott Jones: We did approach you to ask you your thoughts on it and, you know, possibly provide us with your opinion and a comment on the program which you graciously provided us with and it’s on our web site. But, in your statement, Brian, you crystallized the need that’s out there for First Responders. You know, a lot of them are suffering in silence and that needs to stop.

Bryan Stevens: It’s you know, I come up with it just like the statement you said. I don’t know where that came from. I just fell out of my mouth, but it happened to me, as you know, when you’re silent, it’s time to listen. And that just fell out of my mouth. Just, you know, I had the thought process gone. But much like this. And because that’s what happened with me, I became very isolated. I just wanted to just crawl up in those little safe cocoon or pod that I created. And, you know, those around me, I knew it. And I did know it all at the same time. But I just became very distant. I’m a pretty sociable person. And when I just was going through what I was going through, I just wanted it all to stop. And I just wanted to be by myself and I wanted to be silent. But that wasn’t the answer. Because when you’re silent, boy…

Scott Jones: Well, that’s so true. And I was recently speaking with a chief of the fire department, and I asked him what his experiences have been with some of his members with PTSD. And, you know, he shared something really important, I thought, and it was with a lot of firefighters, at least in rural areas. A lot of these men and women are volunteers. And his comment was I don’t think some of these folks even know they have PTSD.

Bryan Stevens: I’d agree with that a hundred percent because, you know, I had this conversation, too, and I just think was a fire chief. And I told him I had some of the talks that I do. And I addressed the whole thing with our volunteer Rural Service Fire Department said, you know, people need to understand. And those people that do those jobs, the brave men and women that are doing those jobs, these are people that are working in the grocery stores and working on your cars and doing way of farming or whatever they’re doing. And I have graciously signed up to be a volunteer. Not really understanding what they’ve just enlisted for. They want to serve their communities. They want to be proud people and take care of the people around them. Boy, oh, boy. You just signed up for something, which I don’t think you even remotely understand.

Scott Jones: So true.

Bryan Stevens: What you’re gone through. And then, like I said, they’re working in these stores. And then all sudden a pager goes off. And where they go? Barn fire, house fire, whatever collusion, car accident. And for our full-time firefighters that are paid and have support to a certain degree. So they have AP programs and peer support. They’ve got some. But these volunteer in rural services, they don’t have anything, they got each other. They go out and do these calls. And then when t’s all done, clean up the trucks, clean up the vehicles and back to the grocery store or back to the farm. Wow.

Scott Jones: And meanwhile, in the evenings. They’re often sometimes depressed, sad. Having trouble sleeping. Feeling anxious. You know, and they don’t know why.

Bryan Stevens: And they don’t know why. And that just continues to escalate to the pointwhere I just had a lengthy conversation with somebody from just north of Toronto area where his volunteer service that’s been off for a period of time here. And to your point, Scott, that’s exactly what he said to me. He goes, I didn’t even know that I had PTSD. I just thought that was just me. And, you know, that was me, too. I didn’t even know I had PTSD. I just thought that was me just being me. That was only a good thing. Because it is just, you know, without the proper education and awareness and understand what kind of support is out there for you. Yeah, you can go down that rabbit hole. Anything’s possible down there. We’ve got a couple more hours we can talk here. We got lots to say. Well, you guys got lots to say. Yeah, but we’re coming down near the end of the show. But we want to make sure that we get in all that, you know, you guys came to talk about. And Scott, you know you and I were talking, and it’s another phrase that I use all the time. And I believe this to be the absolute truth that, you know, I have to speak to the First Responder community because that’s where I live. That’s who I was. And really, to a large point, I still am. But I really believe that these men and women are screaming in silence. They don’t want to show it, but I think they’re screaming in silence and you know, they don’t want to be seen going for therapy. They don’t want to be seen going to that place because all of the people know that I go there. They must know that I have something going on. I really believe it. I think they’re screaming in silence. So a program like this where it doesn’t cost them a dime.

Scott Jones: Not a nickel.

Bryan Stevens: That’s crazy!

Scott Jones: Yeah. Again, we’re really proud to provide these beds for our First Responders. We’re shooting for sort of essentially one admission a week. You know, we’re flexible in that. If someone were to phone me or send in an application and they were in crises, we want to respond as quickly as possible. Yeah, I can. As Kingo was saying earlier, I we can essentially admit somebody within 24 to 48 hours. And when I say that the people first they go, wow. And then secondly, wow, wow, wow.

Bryan Stevens: Give me time to think about it.

Scott Jones: But we want to we want to have a quick response to the need, that’s for sure.

Bryan Stevens: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it must be I know it was for me working on the front lines, like when we had calls that went well and we saved a life or we brought life into this world and everything went well. It was a euphoric thing. It was a contagious thing to see that good side. But it must be incredibly or, you know, overwhelming and exciting for you guys when you see these men and women that have come into your programs and grow the other side, as a much different person.

Kinga Burjan: It’s very rewarding. Yeah. I can’t explain how rewarding it is.

Bryan Stevens: Yeah, I can imagine.

Kinga Burjan: And going back to what you said about people screaming in silence. Yeah. There is a huge, unfortunately a really big stigma. And sometimes, like you said, when you’re in it, you don’t even know you’re in it. Right? So if you’re out there and you’re noticing that you’re isolating more, if you’re noticing that the world is starting to feel more and more unsafe, you know, your depression is, it’s worse or if you’re quicker to anger, all of these things can be signs that you are suffering from PTSD. And our program understands PTSD looks like and we actually have a specific group for First Responders in addition to our regular programming, so that you are amongst other people that understand what you’re going through. You don’t have to worry about vicariously traumatizing people who don’t have that experience. That makes it really safe environment to get whatever you need off your chest.

Bryan Stevens: Yeah. And going back to your point, there is like, you know, in your job as a First Responder, you become hyper vigilant to your surroundings. So what goes on the changes that are going on with your patient. You know, the things that you respond to, you’ve got to make big decisions really quick. So you become hyper vigilant. But when you carry that into your personal life, that’s when things can start to really go sideways. Right. And it’s a big point. A lot of people, a lot of First Responders probably don’t even realize that.

Kinga Burjan: Maybe their spouse or their closed ones notice first that there are changes in their behaviour before the person themselves notice it.

Bryan Stevens: A hundred percent. And then, you know, just like you said for me, was the hyper vigilance. But then it also becomes “too quick to anger” thing, you know, about stuff that you just really don’t need to be angry about.

Kinga Burjan: And then knowing like if you know that you weren’t that way before. That can also create more shame about, you know, who you are. Like you said, genuinely thinking you’re a bad person, but you’re really not. It is symptomatic of your trauma.

Bryan Stevens: I just had a lengthy, lengthy conversation with a former colleague of mine that I worked at the ambulance and I’ve kept in contact. But just life gets in the way and we drifted apart over the last little while. But we just had a conversation just like this. And he just asked me and goes, what was it like for you? He wanted to know. And I was open and I shared it with him. And he just said to me that, he haven’t had a drink in three years. Cause he goes, “it just got too easy”. I’m not an alcoholic and I thought it was a pretty profound statement as something that’s really, really stuck with me, because that’s the way it was for me, too. It was just so easy. It’s not that I had to have that drink. But just when I did, it was just so easy to have two, three, four and five really easy. So I think that’s important for our First Responders out there, too to realize maybe you don’t have an addiction, but it’s too easy (to drink)

Kinga Burjan: And any type of substance is a mechanism for coping with underlying feelings, or are the pain or are numbing that pain?

Bryan Stevens: Exactly. Exactly.

Lori says we’re coming down to the end of the show I’ve got to hurry up here. So let’s make sure we get out about the program. Just go over the program again and how to get ahold of you guys.

Scott Jones: Right. So there’s a variety of ways. One is, Trafalgar does provide a free PTSD support group every Thursday afternoon at our head offices at 124 Merton Street, Toronto. Folks are more than welcome to drop in. And we would only ask them to give us a call at 8558967720 just to sort of let us know that, they’re thinking about coming to the group. But again, that’s a free of charge group. You know, we welcome all First Responders to come to that PTSD support group every Thursday afternoon. The other way of accessing the Local Hero Support Program is simply going on to our website,, click on the treatment tab and you’ll find the Local Hero Support Program at the bottom. Click on to that. And there is a page sort of outlining what it is. And at the bottom, there is a blue box that says please send me an application. It’s all done online. And so the application is emailed to them and they complete it and send it back to us. We will get ahold of them immediately, once we receive the application.

Bryan Stevens: It’s awesome.

Scott Jones: If they want to learn a little bit more about the program without providing their name or, you know, committing to anything. Again, feel free to use the number I mentioned earlier. And just give us a call and ask the questions. A lot of folks who are, I think, dealing with PTSD, trust is a major issue. And they want to and I think it’s wise to get as much information as possible about what they might commit to. So I think it’s always good to sort of, you know, to reach out and gather as much information as possible. So, we would certainly welcome that.

Bryan Stevens: Yeah. Awesome. Well, you guys work for a tremendous organization, and you’re two pretty special people doing some very incredible things. So thanks.

Kinga Burjan: Thank you Bryan,

Bryan Stevens: I know. It’s awesome. And, you know, to the First Responder community out there, I hope that there’s a number of them listening this morning and realize just what this is all about, what you guys are putting out there, because it’s big. It’s big and, you know, like you said, we’re just trying to reach out with a helping hand to the people that reach their helping hand out every day and they just need to realize I did a little bit of a talk about this last night to a group that they’re a tough group of people, tough to crack, but we’ve got to get there.

Scott Jones: Yeah, and although that’s true, they are very appreciative. When the help is there and they receive it, it means the world to them. And the First Responder community is very close knit.

Bryan Stevens: Yeah, absolutely.

Scott Jones: And, you know, the word is circulated, information is circulated, which is really good. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.

Bryan Stevens: Yeah. Exactly. So the website is Treatment tab, down at the bottom, follow the instructions, fill out the application and learn more about your program.

Scott Jones: Absolutely.

Bryan Stevens: Well, we’re down to the end of the show. Thank you to both of you for being here. Thank you to Trafalgar. Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. All that good stuff. I hope you have a great, great holiday with your family and friends. And thank you for coming in today.

Scott Jones: Thank you very much, Bryan. Thank you, Frontline Forward Radio.

Bryan Stevens: Absolutely. Thank you. To each and every First Responder, thank you for your service. Thank you for being there. When we get that time in our lives when we need that help. Join me again here next week on FM 98.5 CKWR, at 10:30. Please stay tuned for Larry Thompson with Country Side coming on and to each and every person out there. Be safe.

— End of the transcription about Local Heroes Support Program, featured on Frontline Forward Radio.

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