Fla. clinic gets $1.4M grant to grow first responder peer support, suicide prevention training

UCF RESTORES also received $270,000 to work with Florida A&M to build a statewide mental health wellness toolkit for first responders


By Leila Merrill

ORLANDO, Fla. — A nonprofit, clinical research center and trauma treatment clinic has received a $1.4 million First Responder Regional Support Grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families to expand its peer support and suicide prevention training.

UCF RESTORES is one of six regional support centers in Florida that offers free resources to first responders. It serves a 12-county area in central Florida, according to a news release.

The clinic serves first responders; frontline medical personnel; military veterans; active-duty military members; survivors of sexual assault, mass violence, and natural disasters; and others affected by trauma. It claims on its website that 66% of its participants with combat-related PTSD and 76% of first responders no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD after treatment.   

UCF RESTORES plans to provide three resources to improve the behavioral health of first responders and their families:

  • Providing peer-support training focused on mental health and suicide prevention. UCF RESTORES has a well-established REACT (Recognize, Evaluate, Advocate, Coordinate and Track) training program. The new regional support center will support training over 300 first responders across the 12 counties.
  • Developing a large network of clinicians in the region and providing free training on first responder culture and treatments that work for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This will expand first responders’ access to well-trained and culturally competent clinicians who work in Central Florida.
  • Three strategic summits will be held with first responder agencies across the region to assist in the development of comprehensive and local behavioral health services for first responders and their families, including access to appropriate outpatient, intensive outpatient, and when needed, inpatient services from agencies that are experienced in providing treatment to the first responder community.”

UCF RESTORES also has received $270,000 and plans to work with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to build a statewide mental health wellness toolkit for first responders.

“Firefighters protect themselves with the necessary gear and equipment; they train to be able to handle the physical requirements of the job, but they don’t have enough training and education for their mental health,” says Doug Riley, chief of the Lakeland Fire Department and president of the Florida Fire Chief’s Association. “UCF RESTORES has been an incredible resource and partner over the years to help our firefighters with resiliency training, peer support training and education about trauma treatment options, and we’re so grateful to see these training programs grow.”

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