The IAFF Center of Excellence is a product of the International Association of Fire Fighter’s dedication to helping firefighters 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 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. The 10/10 Therapeutic Experience provided by the IAFF Center of Excellence and other ARS facilities includes 10 services within 10 days of admission, when medically appropriate.
“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.
Therapy tracks at the IAFF Center include:
For clients with a substance use disorder in addition to an acute stress disorder or acute PTSD
For clients with a substance use disorder and chronic PTSD
For clients with a substance use disorder and clinical depression
For clients with a substance use disorder and complicated grief
For clients with one of the above diagnoses but no substance use disorder
Types of therapy provided by the IAFF Center include:
Group therapy is also a key component of treatment. The center offers several types of group therapy, including resilience groups, track-specific process groups and a substance use education series.
“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 center also provides complementary treatments and services, including:
Mentor groups are a key part of the aftercare program provided by the IAFF Center of Excellence. Clients with an aftercare plan will have access to a mentor who will encourage them to continue to seek follow-up care and other recovery resources.
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 four residential units, including 16 beds for inpatient detox and residential care, and 36 beds for partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient care. The campus also has outdoor picnic areas, nature trails, a barbecue grill, a sand volleyball court and a fire pit.
“The idea is to make this a place that would feel very familiar to a firefighter,” Katz said. “It has to be a total experience and not just about the treatment.”
Other on-site amenities include:
Off-site activities include:
Other sightseeing opportunities and local community events may also become available.
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 firefighter will be assigned three designated phone days per week. During their designated phone time, firefighters 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 see their doctors once a week and participate in individual and family therapy sessions. They also receive daily nursing care, group therapy sessions and support group meeting access. The frequency of therapy may be increased if necessary.
Partial hospitalization is a less intensive form of inpatient therapy. The frequency of individual therapy decreases, and clients gain 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 participate in one individual family therapy session and one individual therapy session every two weeks. Nursing services are available in case of emergency, but clients are not monitored around-the-clock.
After leaving the facility, clients may continue their outpatient programming as needed. Services include individual therapy, group therapy, family counseling and substance abuse education classes. Clients continue to have access to case management services if necessary.
Aftercare planning is available for clients who complete the residential, PHP and IOP phases of treatment. Each firefighter’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.
Staff ratios at the IAFF Center for Excellence are:
Dr. Abby Morris has extensive experience in behavioral health care treatment. She’s served as the medical director for Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and several nonprofits. She also has private practice experience using a variety of therapeutic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment. Morris graduated from the Georgetown University School of Medicine.
For more than 30 years, O’Tilia Hunter has worked in human services. She specializes in treating substance use disorders, co-occurring disorders, grief and other mental health issues. She also has extensive experience in palliative care, relationship counseling and marriage counseling. Hunter received a Ph.D. in counseling education and supervision from Walden University, and she’s a licensed professional counselor.
Tim Craig has worked in health care and human services for more than 30 years. He has directed numerous treatment programs and served as an administrator for multiple health providers. Craig holds a master’s degree in social work and a certificate in social administration from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Dr. Katz has a diverse background in the mental health field. He co-founded and led Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, which helped organize psychiatric efforts after 9/11. He also helped create the World Trade Center Mental Health Screening and Treatment Program for 9/11 first responders. Katz is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and he graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.