Engaging speakers shared passionate, real-life stories Dec. 2 during the first of a series of seminars geared toward the fire service and organized by staff with the Rosecrance Florian Program.
The crowd of 120 firefighters, fire chiefs, chaplains and other personnel heard details about the new Florian Program, as well as presentations about post-traumatic stress disorder, peer support for the fire service and a riveting keynote address by Patrick Kenny, fire chief in Western Springs, Illinois. The “Reading Smoke: Taking care of our own … behavioral health in the fire service” event took place at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Naperville.
Florian, named for the patron saint of firefighters, is a new program based at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus in Rockford, Illinois. It has an eight-bed unit dedicated to serving fire service members for substance abuse disorders and co-occurring mental health issues such as PTSD, depression and anxiety.
The training highlighted how Rosecrance staff and others are helping firefighters and EMTs recover from trauma, develop coping skills so they can return to their jobs and strengthen relationships with their families.
Dan DeGryse, director of the Rosecrance Florian Program and a battalion chief/EMT with the Chicago Fire Department, discussed his research on firefighter suicides and stress. Dr. Raymond Garcia, medical director at the Harrison Campus and a board-certified addictionologist, spoke about PTSD, including its causes and symptoms.
Sarah Gura, director of Firefighter Psychological Support and clinical consultant for the Illinois Fire Fighter Peer Support Team, spoke alongside Matt Olson, a lieutenant with the Bolingbrook (Illinois) Fire Department. Both have extensive experience working with and helping counsel firefighters and paramedics, and Olson shared his personal mental health story, which followed an intense year of personal loss within his family and circle of friends.
Kenny captivated the audience, discussing his 32-year fire service career and the devastating story of losing his son, Sean, to suicide. Sean died in 2006 at the age of 20. He’d been diagnosed with depression at the early age of 5.
DeGryse said the seminar was “way overdue in and for the fire service.”
“Thanks to (Rosecrance President/CEO) Phil Eaton for seeing the need and accepting the challenge,” DeGryse said. “I loved the passion by all the presenters. The bottom line is all the speakers ‘get it,’ as I say, and so did the attendees.”
Sid Aurand, fire chief of the Dixon (Illinois) Rural Fire Department, and Chaplain Al Duncan both said the seminar was worth their time. They enjoyed the speakers and said the personal stories enhanced the meaning of the messages.
“I think we get it. But you have to hear a program like this to really get it. You can hear the message, but you know you’ve got to be part of it,” Aurand said.
More presentations like “Reading Smoke” are planned. Call Kelly Dinsmore at 815-222-2946 or Dan DeGryse at 815-387-2461 for more information or if you want to attend one of these future events.