We rely on police officers and firefighters to provide a sense of security in our lives, but where do the first responders go when they need that help?
The Safety Forces Chaplaincy Center provides confidential assistance, free of cost, for all safety personnel in Summit County. Services include counseling, support, education and law enforcement/safety forces advocacy.
Rev. Robert Denton, Ph. D, who is the pastor and executive director of Furnace Street Mission and Victim Assistance Program -- which offers support for victims of crime and tragedy, said the center started a few years ago when five deputies were on trial for the death of an inmate.
"We began meeting with their families in the old Mission, which sits in front of the VAP office. From their families and others it was decided we needed a confidential and free organization to meet the counseling and emergency needs of officers and fire personnel and their families," he said.
Denton said all the chiefs in Summit County and the Faternal Order of Police in Akron support the Center, because it addresses the difficulties inflicted on the officers and fire personnel who cannot, for legal and personal reasons, use traditional community mental health resources.
"It offers both counseling and substance abuse counseling at no cost and is strictly confidential. In 2011, there were 189 therapy sessions and 180 hours of substance abuse intervention," he said.
This year a "For Cops Only" substance abuse group was formed and meets weekly in the center. The Center is in the process of initiating a similar program for fire personnel.
"Across the last two years, three officers have indicated it prevented them from 'eating their guns,'" he said.
The Center is also home base for ASSIST 77, Critical Incident Stress Management Team. Denton said the ASSIST 77 is the critical incident intervention team, which responds with defusings and debriefings for police and fire after really bad calls.
"It assists in putting the bad stuff in the right place mentally and physically," he said. "It, too, is confidential and is comprised of police officers from various departments who are trained. I serve as the clinician for the team."
Denton said the goals of the Center are counseling, support, education and first responder advocacy. This year, Denton will step down as executive of the VAP and assume full-time leadership of the Center's services as of January. The big challenge for the Center is to provide the resources for the services.
This Thursday, Sept. 13, from 4 to 8 p.m., the center is hosting the fourth annual Dog n' Suds for support as it is the Center's main fundraiser. The fun filled event will be held at Lock 3 in Downtown Akron and the Buck Naked will provide live music.
A $10 admission donation will include all-you-can eat hot dogs, two drink tickets and a raffle ticket for door prizes. Raffle tickets can also be purchased for $10 each to win a 14-foot Rogue River TK canoe, two life jackets, two wood paddles, two fishing rods and "antique" lures. Tickets for the canoe raffle can be purchased in advance and you do not need to be present to win.
Denton said the funds generated from the event will help cover the professional counseling, educational and operations of the Center as it continues to grow.
"Perhaps the greatest indicator of success has been the quiet referral from the troops who have used the services and quietly directed other officers and fire personnel from departments across the county," Denton said.
Tickets will be available at the door. To purchase your admission tickets in advance or for more information, call the office at (330) 376-0040.
For more information about the Safety Forces Chaplaincy Center, visit www.furnacestreetmission.org.