The IAFF Center of Excellence is a product of the International Association of Fire Fighter’s dedication to helping fire fighters overcome the unique mental health challenges they face. The center treats only IAFF members, so clients are surrounded by people who can relate to their experiences.
Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS) is a leading behavioral health care provider in the United States. In partnership with IAFF, specialists at ARS provide clients with the latest evidence-based mental health care.
“We have evidence-based diagnostic procedures,” Dr. Craig Katz, a consulting physician for the IAFF Center of Excellence, said at the 2017 Vincent J. Bollon Affiliate Leadership Training Summit. “We don’t just diagnose for problems. We also diagnose for strengths. We do a resilience assessment and some other strength-focused diagnoses. We are going to use those diagnoses to inform the clinical tracks that the firefighters that come to the facility will go into.”
Clients are assigned to individualized therapy tracks based on the diagnosis made during their assessment. “In the different tracks, we’re using evidence-based psychotherapies that have been designed by international experts,” Katz said.
Acute Trauma: For clients with a substance use disorder in addition to an acute stress disorder or acute PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: For clients with a substance use disorder and chronic PTSD
Major Depression: For clients with a substance use disorder and clinical depression
GriefFor clients with a substance use disorder and complicated grief
Behavioral Health: For clients with one of the above diagnoses but no substance use disorder
Group therapy is also a key component of treatment. The center offers several types of group therapy to fit clients’ specific needs. “The groups are going to be a little more about peer support, education and sharing with one another what having that particular problem is like and how people cope with it,” Katz said.
The mission of the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery is to offer treatment for successful recovery and help IAFF members return to the job. Located on a 15-acre campus in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the facility is surrounded by a lightly wooded area and beautiful natural scenery. The campus has units for different levels of care, with 64 beds total. The campus also has outdoor picnic areas, nature trails and a sand volleyball court. “The idea is to make this a place that would feel very familiar to a fire fighter,” Katz said. “It has to be a total experience and not just about the treatment.”
The IAFF Center of Excellence is committed to providing professional care with compassion and kindness. Firefighters are also asked to commit to certain standards and comply with facility rules during their stay.
Smoking is allowed in designated smoking areas during established break times. No smoking is allowed within 25 feet of any building.
Each fire fighter will be assigned three designated phone days per week. During their designated phone time, fire fighters may use the phone for up to 20 minutes. No calls may be made during the first 72 hours of treatment.
The IAFF Center of Excellence provides a comprehensive range of services for substance use disorder treatment and PTSD treatment. We aid our clients through the entire recovery process.
Detox is the initial phase of treatment for substance use disorders. We provide 24/7 supervision and medications when appropriate to ease withdrawal symptoms.
During residential treatment, clients participate in individual and family therapy sessions according to their personalized treatment plans. Group therapy sessions and support group meeting access may also be offered. The frequency of therapy maybe increased if necessary.
Partial hospitalization is a less intensive form of inpatient therapy. The frequency of individual therapy typically decreases, with clients gaining access to recreational therapy and other on- and off-campus activities. Case management services and discharge planning may be introduced at this phase.
As clients continue to progress through the treatment program, they may participate in family and individual therapy sessions less frequently. Nursing services are available in case of emergency, but clients are typically not monitored around-the-clock.
After leaving the facility, clients may continue their outpatient programming as needed. Services can include individual therapy, group therapy, family counseling and substance abuse education classes. Clients continue to have access to case management services if necessary.
Each fire fighter’s individualized aftercare plan will detail the type, frequency and duration of recommended treatment. The plan includes goals, support group access and recommendations for other relevant services.
The IAFF Center of Excellence employs a multidisciplinary staff of clinicians, behavioral technicians, nurses, psychiatrists and case managers. Each firefighter is assigned to a primary therapist who possesses a master’s degree. Firefighters also meet with a financial counselor to discuss the financial aspects of treatment.
A graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Abby Morris is a board-certified psychiatrist with diverse experience in community mental health, substance abuse, inpatient and private practice settings. She is responsible for all inpatient care, training and future operations planning. She develops the individualized plan of care that will follow each client throughout their stay at the Center. Previous to her appointment to the IAFF Center of Excellence, Dr. Abby Morris was the medical director of a 24-bed inpatient facility that treated addiction and behavioral health disorders.
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