Pulse first-responders to receive mental health training

By Mark Lehman - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County commissioners approved funding on Tuesday that will be directed toward a mental health program to help those who responded to the Pulse nightclub terror attack.

The nearly $244,532 grant is part of an $8.4 million anti-terrorism and emergency assistance program that was passed in 2017.

Through a contract with St. Petersburg College Center for Public Safety Innovation, first responders and other community members will receive training in coping with critical incident stress.

"What we're doing with this training is trying to encourage people to identify it within themselves and to help their peers through it," Orange County Mental Health Manager Donna Wyche said.

The courses will be available to any law enforcement, firefighters, medical workers and counselors who helped victims who were at the Pulse nightclub the morning of June 12, 2016.

"Sometimes it doesn't affect them right away, because in the moment you're doing what you're trained to do," Wyche said. "It can be months later. It could be a year later. It could be a trigger here, a trigger there that brings that back to you."

Part of the training will include teaching students to conduct the mental health training within their own agency.

"One of the aspects of this training is to train the trainer, so that we continue to saturate this kind of training within those municipalities," Wyche said.

With Tuesday's grant approval, the training may start immediately.  Officials said St. Petersburg College Center for Public Safety Innovation will be reimbursed by Orange County on a contract and fee-for-service basis.

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