- This story originally appeared in the December 2022 issue of COMO Magazine.
In times of distress, we always have people to call: firefighters, police officers, EMT’s. But who do they turn to?
First Responders Support is a new nonprofit organization focused on the Boone County area and was founded in October 2022 by Randy Minchew, with DeLine Holdings, and Jared Torbet, with the Anxiety & Depression Clinic of Columbia.
According to their mission statement, “First Responder Support exists to promote goodwill between first responders and the community, increase awareness of the realities facing first responders, and provide relief and support to those who serve Boone County as first responders.”
Founder Jared Torbet says First Responders Support is still piecing together what this mission statement looks like in action, but it encompasses the organization’s four target areas: promote goodwill between first responders and the community, educate first responders and their agencies, provide relief, and provide support.
Educate, Support, and Relief
There is a wide range of first-responder occupations, including police officers, EMT’s, firefighters, doctors, and more. Each job comes with unique challenges and stressors, which many first responders carry with them outside of the “office.”
One of First Responders Support’s main goals is to challenge the stigma on first responders struggling with mental health by educating the community and first responders’ agencies on the unique mental health issues they face.
Jared owns and operates his own mental health clinic, the Anxiety & Depression Clinic of Columbia, and has dealt with many first responders and their families in the past. He says there are many mental health issues that can come with the job like complex PTSD, suicide, depression, and family issues — just to name a few.
“We feel that they deserve support and appreciation from all angles
“By having this organization here, we’re constantly assessing their needs, and problem solving to meet those needs. Right now, we’re still assessing,” Jared says.
Jared and others at the nonprofit are working to find out more specifics on what mental health help first responders need through methods such as information collection, focus groups, and surveys. They hope to then provide this help through as many outlets/networks as they can, including further educating first responders’ agencies and their leaders.
“We’re building a system and processes that allow us to learn directly from first responders what their needs are and how they want us to meet those needs,” Jared says. “For example, when a first responder experiences trauma, how great would it be for a leader to pull them aside and say, ‘you just saw something tragic, or something traumatic just happened to you, what can we do to help you?’”
First Responders Support believes through educating community members and leaders on the issues that first responders face, stronger connections and appreciation will be built between the community and first responders.
“The big thing, to me, is educating the public about those traumas, and creating that relationship between the community and first responders. I think those kind of go hand-in-hand,” says Ken Gregory, retired first responder and member of the nonprofit’s advisory panel.
First responders are constantly supporting their communities through their work — with long, strenuous hours, regularly facing traumatic events. First Responders Support urges the community to get involved and give back, letting local first responders know they’re supported, too.
“We feel that they deserve support and appreciation from all angles, and we also want our community members to feel safe, protected, and connected to their local first responders,” Jared says.
First Responders Support plans to offer numerous opportunities for community members to get involved and show their support through community events, volunteer work, or just simply by donating. Visit firstrespondersupport.net for more information.