According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there were 44,965 deaths from suicide in 2017. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the 8th leading cause of death in the State of Florida. Additionally, there are 25 attempts for every suicide death.

North Collier Fire Rescue (NCFR) recognized these risks, and took the lead in ensuring that all of its personnel, who serve this community every hour of every day of every year, have access to the proper resources should the need arise….not only for their own safeguard, but for the public they serve as well.

In 2016, NCFR was the first in the nation to team up with local law enforcement partners to train paramedics in crisis intervention training, or C.I.T. NCFR and The Collier County Sheriff’s Office, who has provided training for their deputies for years, partnered with the David Lawrence Center and established a crisis intervention team. This team is trained to perform wellness visits, welfare checks and identification of potential trigger points in individuals, sometimes even before a behavioral crisis occurs. The unique qualifications of the team members provide for high quality intervention, including the determination of the most appropriate receiving facility for an individual in distress that, many times, may not be a jail or hospital.

Additionally, NCFR was the first fire agency in the State of Florida to sign an agreement with the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD program. The initiative, led by Chairman Chris Lombardo, was committed to taking care of our agency’s men and women with the same level of care as provided by those personnel to the public they serve. UCF’s nationally recognized PTSD program for the military was utilized in the treatment of first responders after the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting in Orlando in 2016. It was Chairman Lombardo’s vision to partner with UCF for the treatment of our own firefighters when local counseling and intervention programs did not meet the needs of the most serious PTSD and behavioral health cases. After discussions with UCF program directors and tours of their PTSD facilities, an agreement was developed, and subsequently supported, by the entire North Collier Board of Fire Commissioners.

With first responders having much higher suicide rates than the general public, the agreement was of the utmost importance for the District. More than 100 firefighters nationwide have committed suicide each of the last four years. NCFR knows this all too well, as one of our own retirees committed suicide just a couple years after retirement. The continuous exposure to death, serious injuries, dismemberment and the occasional death of a child builds up during a 20 or 30-year career. The intent of treating PTSD cases early is to provide coping mechanisms to allow individuals to continue to work and live quality lives. The greatest challenge is to recognize the triggers that are unique to each individual. The UCF PTSD program is one of our resources for tackling this challenge.

The Florida Legislature passed new regulations this past session to further aid all first responders around the state in the identification and treatment of PTSD cases. The new law took effect October 1, 2018. We thank our local delegation, Senator Kathleen Passidomo and Representatives Bob Rommel and Byron Donalds, who supported this initiative guaranteeing that all first responders have the benefit of what North Collier Fire Commissioners had already established for their own first responders.

On behalf of the entire Board of Fire Commissioners, it is with great honor that we continue to provide leadership and policy direction that ensures our personnel, sworn to protect the citizens of our community, are also protected in regards to their own safety, health and behavioral well-being.

The Board of Fire Commissioners
North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District