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A new program in Alabama is allowing firefighters to help other firefighters who may be struggling with mental health issues.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) has partnered with the Alabama Fire College to expand and implement the First Responder Peer Support program. The state is one of the first in the nation to implement the curriculum in recruit schools.

The program first started with the Professional Fire Fighters of Alabama (PFFA) in 2018. PFFA president David Harer said because first responders are susceptible to developing behavioral health conditions or substance abuse issues due to what they experience on the job, he quickly learned more needed to be done.

"It was very evident from the beginning that the PFFA couldn’t keep up with the demand to assist all firefighters across this great state with their peer needs,” said Harer. “We are very excited and thankful for Alabama Fire College (AFC) to work with the ADMH.”

First responders will be trained in each of the state's 10 regions on awareness and peer assistance. The program will connect firefighters with their peers concerning mental health and substance abuse issues and offer education, referrals and crisis intervention.

Officials with the ADMH said the initiative will lessen the stigma of mental illness within the profession and create a more healthy and productive work environment.

For more information on the Alabama First Responder Peer Support Program, go towww.afrps.com.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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