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  • KMIZ ABC 17 News

    Mental health help available for first responders after deadly standoffs in Boone County

    By Morgan Buresh,



    Law enforcement responded to two deadly standoffs within three days last week, and one police officer said intense situations like that back-to-back can be both physically and emotionally exhausting.

    On June 4, a standoff at a mobile home park in Sturgeon ended in the death of Damion Linder.

    Then, a standoff at The Links in Columbia two days later ended in the death of a man police have not yet identified.

    Columbia Police and Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to both scenes. The Sturgeon scene was also worked by the Boone County Sheriff's Office, Sturgeon Police and Hallsville Police.

    Columbia Police Officers Association President Matt Nichols said events so close together just compound, and don't allow the SWAT team members that responded any time to decompress.

    "They've already been working tens and dozens and even more hours of overtime with these other (homicide) cases, only to have to switch gears, take off their coat and tie from interviewing people, put on 60 pounds of body armor, and go do this for seven, eight, nine, ten hours," Nichols said. "It's exhausting."

    Chaplain Laird Thompson at Columbia Psychology Healing Center said large-scale events like last week's require first responders to take personal time to self-regulate and debrief.

    "They were just kicked on to 100 miles an hour and then again 100 miles an hour, so their internal systems are just amped up," Thompson said. "So, they have to take personal time to self-soothe, to self-regulate, to do a critical incident stress debrief."

    Local law enforcement offices do offer mental health resources to employees. CPD has a peer support program and an employee assistance program through the city, according to spokesperson Jenny Hopper.

    Sgt. Kyle Green said the Missouri State Highway Patrol has a peer support team for all employees. He said so far in 2024, almost 200 people have been in contact with the peer support team.

    On top of this, MSHP also has Post-Critical Incident Seminars that Green said, "provides first responders with valuable training that addresses how trauma affects the human psyche and changes your world view." He said 11 seminars have been offered since 2019.

    The highway patrol also partners with Cordico to provide 24/7 access to mental and behavioral health. It also provides an employee assistance program.

    Capt. Brian Leer said the Boone County Sheriff's Office offers mental health debriefs following critical incidents and two employee assistance programs. For those on administrative leave after large incidents, a one-on-one appointment is scheduled with a mental health professional before that person can return to work.

    The sheriff's office also provides mental health check-ins with a provider once every three years.

    Nichols said he himself has sought help before, and while he thinks CPD does a good job of making resources available, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health and first responders.

    "There's kind of this belief that, 'People call us for help. We don't ask for help,'" Nichols said. "So, I don't know that any (resources) would ever be enough."

    Nichols is on the board of another local resource, First Responder Support . The nonprofit was created in 2022 and provides support to all 600-700 first responders in Boone County.

    He said there is no prerequisite for responders to get help.

    First Responder Support spokesperson Rick Rowden said the nonprofit aims to provide support for first responders along with creating goodwill in the community and providing education. First responders can also apply for scholarships to receive funding toward receiving mental health help.

    "They lose a lot of who they are simply because they're sort of fighting our fight for us," Rowden said. "So, it's extremely important that we do everything we can to provide the resources for them to be able to find the help that they need."

    More than 80% of first responders experience traumatic situations while on the job, according to data from the Institutes of Health.

    Nichols said first responders are still just human and, unfortunately, often take those situations home with them.

    "We are normal people, we have kids, some of us have grandkids, we coach little league, we go bowling. We are just like all the other citizens in Columbia," Nichols said. "We just have a lot of really bad, ugly stuff that we have to deal with that we don't get to leave at work."

    Some resources available for first responders include:

    The post Mental health help available for first responders after deadly standoffs in Boone County appeared first on ABC17NEWS .

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