Alton PD to offer first responders counseling service

The Alton Police Department is making efforts to take care of their own officers with the implementation of a new program that provides 24-hour counseling services to first responders.

The new initiative, called “Alton Police Cares,” aims to provide chaplain/counseling services to first responders and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the police department announced in a news release issued Thursday.

The services will be provided through Market Place Chaplains, a Plano-based nonprofit organization that provides services to employees around the country.

Alton PD stated that the services would be provided at no cost to their employees and will be completely confidential.

“In the span of a first responder’s career they are exposed to critical incidents, such as murders, suicides, fatal accidents, etc.,” Alton Police Chief Jonathan B. Flores said in a news release. “Research has shown that this exposure has a direct impact on a first responder’s mental health.”

The release cited data from Blue H.E.L.P. — a Massachusetts-based nonprofit run by active and retired police officers, medical professionals, and victim’s families — which states that the annual number of suicides among law enforcement surpassed the number of deaths in the line of duty from 2016 to 2018.

“As agency administrators we must continue to work towards changing the culture regarding any stigma that previously existed on first responders receiving mental health services,” Flores stated. “Our employees have lives outside of work, and sometimes they may be dealing with difficult personal issues on top of their work stressors.

“We want to ensure that our employees have an outlet available to them if and when they need it.”