Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service Launches Mental Health Program for Texas First Responders

Wellness and Counseling Program focused on first responder mental health established with $497,066 in Federal support secured by Congressman Troy Nehls

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) recently launched a program to support vital mental health programs for Texas first responders. The federal grant of $497,066 was championed by U.S. Congressman Troy Nehls (TX-22) as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act and was awarded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Through this program, TEEX has developed “Support that Saves: A Guide to Building and Sustaining Peer Support.” In this three-day class, TEEX experts assess the peer-support mental health program needs of first responder agencies and departments and provide recommendations and assistance in developing mental health peer support teams of their own. In March, TEEX hosted the first delivery of this program for law enforcement, firefighters and dispatchers from first responder agencies in Fort Bend County, Texas.

“Every day, first responders put their lives on the line to serve and protect communities across the country,” said Congressman Nehls. “I am proud to have worked with TEEX on this project to support mental health programs for first responders in the great state of Texas.” 

The grant funding will also be used to establish TEEX’s Wellness and Counseling Center in College Station. The center will provide first responders with professional mental health counseling services using evidence-based practices to improve overall mental health and well-being. At the center, licensed counselors will also train other mental health professionals in providing trauma-informed care to first responders.

“Studies show that police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, and that depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are up to five times more likely to occur in first responders,” said Alisa McDonald, TEEX Project Director. “Few programs train counselors to provide trauma-informed care to first responders. At TEEX, we want to train mental health experts to understand the mental health challenges and stresses associated with being a first responder.”

Finally, the program offers assistance during and after natural disasters or mass casualty incidents. During the recent wildfires in the Texas Panhandle, the TEEX first responder wellness team traveled to Amarillo to assess needs, identify resources and assist first responders.

“This work continues the A&M System’s long-standing commitment to first responders across Texas,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “With Congressman Nehls’ support, this funding will build upon TEEX’s mission to support, educate and train first responders through the establishment of mental health services tailored specifically for them.”

People sitting in classroom listening to a lady speak
Alisa McDonald, Wellness and Resiliency Program Director for First Responders

About Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service

Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) trains firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement, line workers, water/wastewater professionals and homeland security experts: the people who protect lives and property in the community. TEEX also offers training and technical assistance in business development and cybersecurity. Over the past decade, TEEX has trained more than 1.7 million people. To learn more, visit https://teex.org/ or follow us on LinkedIn.

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Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service
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