MLH - Main Line Health Inc.

09/01/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/01/2021 11:35

Thank you first responders⏤but now let's take care of you

As we reflect on the horrific events of 20 years ago-September 11, 2001-we're reminded of the courageousness and fortitude of the emergency response personnel in New York City, from the firefighters and police force to the EMTs, doctors and nurses, both within the five boroughs as well as those who traveled from miles away to support fellow first responders. Many of them gave their lives. And many of them still live with the harrowing memories and post-traumatic stress from those experiences.

In recognition of the anniversary of 9/11, we say thank you first responders. We want you to know we're here for you with a nationally acclaimed program that provides addiction and trauma treatment for law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, combat veterans, and anyone in an emergency response role.

VIPER is a specialized treatment track that consists of first responders who struggle with addiction and, in many cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), crime scene trauma, work-related distress and family and marital problems. In addition to group therapy, VIPER offers:

The program treat both inpatients and outpatients at Mirmont Treatment Center in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.

Why do first responders need a program specifically designed to meet their needs?

A first responder who enters this treatment environment has had a vastly different experience than other patients. A police officer, for example, may be concerned about receiving treatment alongside someone who has a criminal past, or someone who might recognize them as an officer from their neighborhood.

By the nature of their careers, first responders often have their guard up so entering a treatment program surrounded by people who might recognize them or feel a certain way about them can heighten that isolated feeling.

VIPER offers a community where first responders can talk to and meet people who have had similar experiences to their own so that they feel less alone and, hopefully, less guarded.

Who are the different types of first responders who seek treatment through VIPER?

Since the VIPER program began, it has attracted members from across the Philadelphia region and around the country, including places like New York, Boston and Chicago. VIPER serves a variety of first responders, including police and law enforcement officials, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, combat veterans, even United States Border Patrol agents.

More recently, corrections officers have been seeking trauma and addiction support through the VIPER program. They have a workplace culture that makes it difficult to overcome addiction. Psychiatric nurses, too, turn to VIPER for help. Their experiences, often traumatic, qualify them as emergency responders.

What happens during a VIPER meeting?

It's quite a bit of talk and experiential therapy, but it's also a chance to simply talk about things that you might not feel comfortable sharing in other groups or at 12-step meetings. Most of these things center on traumatic experiences.

First responders also have a particular sense of humor that they can only express to their brothers and sisters on the front lines. Often, amidst their pain, VIPER members crack jokes and make funny observations. Laughter keeps them grounded and in touch with their humanity.

How do first responders benefit from VIPER?

First responders benefit most from the opportunity for fellowship and the realization that they're not alone. By nature and the career they have chosen, first responders are caregivers. When they feel that they come up short, it's damaging to their self-esteem and pride. It can be tough to keep going because they take it harder than the average person. They need to know that they're not failed people.

VIPER offers that camaraderie and is a reminder that there are others just like them out there, struggling with the same problems. It helps them understand that they deserve the time and opportunity to recover, too, just like everyone else.

Do first responders continue participating in the VIPER program?

Many VIPER alumni who have been clean and sober for several years continue to come back to the group to share with those who are in treatment now. The message is: 'If I can overcome addiction and trauma and move on with my life, so can you.'

Main Line Health offers behavioral health services, from group therapy and individual therapy to 12-step meetings for drug and alcohol addiction. For more information about the VIPER program, please call 1.888.CARE.898 (227.3898) to schedule a confidential appointment.