Sheriff, Deputies, and Chaplaincy Establish Peer Support Team
The Cowlitz County Chaplaincy was established in 1983 to serve Sheriff Deputies and their families. Since that time, their mission has expanded to serve all first responders and the community at large. They are available 24 hours a day every day of the year to bring support and words of encouragement and hope to people suffering loss and despair. I have great respect and admiration for the Chaplains, who have dedicated themselves to a vocation of service to others and on whom we rely daily to make a positive difference in Cowlitz County.
The Chaplaincy had grown and evolved over the years to meet the needs of the community in an ever-changing world. A recent enhancement to the services offered is the partnership they have established with Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office to facilitate a peer support program. Each of our organizations have suffered a tragic loss of a staff member in recent years and the Chaplaincy walked alongside us during these times. After these events there was a great desire to do more to help our staff members through personal and professional crisis. The Chaplaincy located a potential grant funding source and assisted us in obtaining funding through the Health Care Foundation to implement and maintain a peer support program for Deputies and support staff of the Sheriff’s Office. Our program parallels the Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue program, and we share in joint training.
The purpose of peer support is to aid in day-to-day stressors and crises, either personal or professional, and critical incidents. Peer support is designed to provide confidential support, to help alleviate the effects of stress, increase resilience, and improve coping strategies for both employees and their families. The selected peers are nominated by their co-workers and go through vetting and training to serve in this capacity. They are respected members with whom employees and family members can have confidential conversations that are meant to promote positive emotional and mental health. They are also trained to know when additional support may be needed. The Chaplaincy is an integral part of our program which is overseen by Responder Life, a non-profit that provides selection, training, and additional mental health support when needed. Our first responders face unique and often traumatic events in the course of their careers and are we confident that this program will be greatly beneficial in keeping our employees healthy and productive as they serve the public safety needs of Cowlitz County.
As Sheriff and a board member of the Chaplaincy I see first-hand the dedication and sacrifice made by the Chaplains as they carry out their service to the community. They rely on donations of individuals, businesses, and the faith community to support month to month operations. Some of the staff receive modest stipends while others are strictly volunteers. An annual fund-raising dinner, monthly pledges, and the November care package for 1st responders provide the means to keep the Chaplains available 24/7 to be there in moments of need. Please join me in supporting the worthy mission of the Cowlitz County Chaplaincy as they make a daily difference in our community.