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July 1, 2010
by root
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Treatment center will explore resiliency

I want to compliment Bruce Campbell for an excellent article in the March/April 2010 issue. I will be sharing it with all my staff and will make a discussion of resiliency dynamics a part of one of our in-services. I hope this information can be part of a larger discussion of the dynamics of recovery.

Franklin Lisnow, MEd, MAC

Executive director

Center for Dependency,

Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR)

Aurora, Colo.

Challenging road for recovering counselors

I enjoyed Brian Duffy's article on disclosing a counselor's recovery status, in the March/April 2010 issue. Being a past addictions counselor for 30 years and sober in AA for 35 years, I always envied non-recovering counselors because they didn't have to be concerned about relapse and were more objective about addiction recovery than recovering counselors were. Keep up the good work.

Ed McDonnell, MS, LCADC, CCS, CSW

Faculty member

Rutgers Summer School of Alcohol and Drug Studies

I enjoyed Brian Duffy's article on counselor self-disclosure. I thought it gave good guidance on how to approach the subject. I'm happy to know that I've been following most of the advice the article gave, but it also helped me to be more conscious of what I am saying and why I am saying it.

I've had experiences where disclosure was made and the clients reported being more hopeful. I believe that they figure that since you're being successful in recovery, maybe this can really work for them. Also, if you're not in recovery you don't have to explain to a client if they happen to see you outside of treatment somewhere drinking. Of course, each case has its own particulars and must be evaluated carefully. I thank you for the very valuable reminder.

Hakim Rushdan

Washington, D.C.

Reducing suicide risk among law enforcers

The article “Assess routinely for suicide risk” (November/December 2009 issue) caught my attention. It reminded me that some of the people most affected by violence are those who protect us.

In 2008 I worked with a retired, formerly addicted police officer, Sean Riley, at an inpatient facility in the Seattle area. He and I supervised patient care at the time. I learned that in 2005 Riley turned himself in to authorities and had since been struggling with the problems associated with having worked as a public safety officer while using. He and his family were to lose a pension, medical insurance, and of course his job.

That year, another police officer had solved his drinking problem with a .45 when he could not face what was happening to him and his family. Suicides such as this have been happening for years.

In 2009, 48 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty by firearms. In that same year more than 150 officers committed suicide. The police suicide rate per 100,000 individuals is double that of the general public. Alcohol is present in 85% of those suicides. Addiction rates among first responders are estimated to be upwards of 25%. Considering the rate of injuries and stress experienced in this line of work it is not all that difficult to believe.

The suicide of a fellow officer and friend affected Riley in a major way. With two years of sobriety under his belt he began asking questions and at one point spoke with the federal judge who had ruled on his case. Due to his unrelenting efforts he found himself standing in front of U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (former King County sheriff and the man responsible for apprehension of the “Green River Killer”) and Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen. They came up with a solution at the state level: Substitute Senate Bill 5131, which would be signed into law in April 2009.

The bill relates to crisis referral services “that may have an impact on the personal and professional lives of public safety employees, including mental health issues, chemical dependency, domestic violence, financial problems and other personal crises.” It allows the employment of techniques to recognize the need to seek assistance and obtain referral for consultation and possible treatment. It includes a clause stating that all communications shall be confidential, and specifying the conditions under which information can be released.

Since April 2009, 57 public safety officers in the state have completed treatment for chemical dependency and have returned to their jobs with nothing more placed in their file than a statement as to having returned from a medical leave. It is also noteworthy that more than 1,100 employees and family members have received assistance for mental health, financial matters, family dysfunction and other crises.

Riley travels the U.S. speaking before police and other groups, and presently is working with Reichert to introduce a similar bill in Congress for federal safety workers. Safety leaders in various states have contacted Riley for assistance in bringing about the same relief to their states. The goal is to treat the underlying problem before it results in behavior that could be considered misconduct and/or self-harm.

Any Washington safety officer or family member who believes their life is in crisis can make a “Safe Call Now” and talk confidentially to another safety officer, one who has been trained to take the call. For more information, visit http://www.safecallnow.org.