A new division within the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services will focus on the wellbeing of Ohio’s first responders.

The new Office of First Responder Wellness will work to encourage self-care and mental wellness for Ohio’s first responder community including law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, dispatch, corrections and Ohio-based military personnel. The office will provide specialized support and training to help emergency response agencies proactively address post-traumatic stress and other traumas caused by factors that are unique to first responder careers.

According to Blue H.E.L.P., more than 940 first responders nationwide have taken their own lives over the last five years, with the majority of those deaths involving law enforcement officers. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more officers die by suicide than in the line of duty, and compared to the general population, law enforcement officers report much higher rates of depression, PTSD, burnout and other anxiety-related mental health conditions. Research also shows that stress from a career in law enforcement causes higher rates of secondary trauma such as heart diseases, divorce, alcoholism and other psychological illnesses.

Steven M. Click, who served 36 years with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and oversaw their Member Assistance Team from 2002 to 2018, will serve as the director of the Ohio Office of First Responder Wellness. Click has been active in peer support since 1993 and was deployed twice to New York City after the 9/11 attacks to work with the New York Police Department's peer support team. Most recently, Click served as a liaison between the first responder community and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The Ohio Office of First Responder Wellness will partner with local and state mental health agencies, including the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, to offer continuing, comprehensive resources to first responder entities across the state.

The Ohio Office of First Responder Wellness will also work to offer wellness training for law enforcement next year to meet the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission’s requirement that all peace officers in the state receive officer personal wellness training in 2022.