First responders spend their careers helping others, but what happens when they need help? That is the question—and the answer—behind a program at Recovery Centers of America developed exclusively to help first responders who are struggling with substance use disorder.
National Recovery Month is a time to honor first responders for the lifesaving work they do every day.
The misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. A National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that about 19.3 million people aged 18 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year, yet some still don’t seek treatment due to the stigma still associated with substance use disorder. RCA is addressing the need with a program specifically designed to help first responders and other rescue personnel.
Recovery Centers of America’s RESCU treatment program, which stands for Recovering Emergency Service Community United, is designed to address and assist with profession-related obstacles first responders may be facing, so they can gain lasting recovery from drugs and alcohol.
The RESCU Program at RCA caters to the specific needs of first responders who have unique challenges due to the nature of their work. In the program they become part of a small community of fellow emergency response professionals experiencing similar challenges. They will be engaged by staff members who have personal experience in the first responder community, as well as expert addiction treatment staff.
One of those staff members is Leah Mariani, an EMT and counselor at Recovery Centers of America in Devon, PA.
“There’s an extra level of comfort with someone who’s been in my shoes, and I know it and we can talk about it,” said Mariani. “It’s unnatural for us to not be the ones that are giving help and are saying, ‘Hey this is my turn. I need help now too.’”
Confidential treatment for first responders includes private group therapy sessions, peer support groups, and individualized treatment.
Anthony Jones runs the RESCU program at Recovery Centers of America in Westminster. Jones knows what it’s like to live a life in service to others. He has served in the U.S. Air Force and the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, and as a firefighter/EMT, police officer, and instructor/coordinator for the Dept. of Public Health/Office of EMS.
“People in uniform often feel that no one else understands their experiences or emotions,” said Jones. “Going through the RESCU program with their peers, they become more confident in discussing their struggles, which is an important step in their recovery.”
While the RESCU program is available in Westminster, MA, Devon, PA, Indianapolis, IN, and South Amboy (Raritan Bay), NJ, they are structured differently. “It’s important that the program is not cookie-cutter because the men and women in uniform who join the program certainly aren’t,” added Jones. “While they might have similar experiences, they are still all individuals and must be treated that way.”
Support and encouragement from within the field to seek treatment is important. That’s why the RCA RESCU advisory board was created utilizing the expertise of leaders in the first responder community. The advisory board includes representatives from diverse first responder organizations.
In New Jersey, Robert C. Curry, an EMT/firefighter from Cape May County, is an advisory board member. “As an active-duty firefighter and EMT for over 30 years, and with 20 years of experience in law enforcement, I am proud to sit on the First Responders Advisory Board for the RESCU Program at RCA Raritan Bay,” he said. “Our board brings together both the unique perspective of first responders and the first-hand experience of these critical public servants. This ensures that the needs of this valued group of men and women are addressed during treatment, to help ensure the success of long-lasting recovery.”
If you or someone you know is a first responder who needs help recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction, or would like more information about RESCU, contact Recovery Centers of America at 1-800-RECOVERY.
For the third year, RCA was recognized as having multiple sites atop Newsweek’s 2022 America’s Best Addiction Centers rankings for excellence.
“Recovery Centers of America Program Helps Struggling First Responders”, hmpgloballearningnetwork.com, “https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/emsworld/news/recovery-centers-america-program-helps-struggling-first-responders”