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(Columbus) – 72 local first responder agencies will receive a total of $28 million to help support the wellness and staffing needs of Ohio’s first responders. This includes for Pike County and three in Fairfield County.
The grants represent the fifth round of the Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention, and Resilience Program. To date, Governor Mike DeWine has awarded $49 million to 219 Ohio agencies as part of this program, which aims to address burnout caused by understaffing and overall job stress.
“We’ve had a great deal of interest in this grant program, and it’s good to see that so many first responder agencies prioritize employee wellness,” said Governor DeWine. “These grants provide agency-specific support to help first responders remain on the job so that they can continue to keep Ohioans safe.”
A total of approximately $75 million will be awarded to law enforcement agencies, dispatch centers, fire departments, and emergency medical services agencies as part of the program.
In Pike County- Waverly Police & Fire Departments will receive $205,200 for a first responder mental health assistance program that includes counseling services and wellness support.
In Fairfield County- Bremen Rushcreek Township Fire will receive $9,875 for wellness assessments, counseling, and ongoing critical incident/crisis counseling. Hocking Township Fire Department will receive $123,189 for a full-time health and wellness officer, and Richland Township Fire Department will receive $9,680 for initial clinician wellness checks and one follow-up visit.
The Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention, and Resilience Program is administered by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. The program awards funding for initiatives that support wellness programs addressing mental, physical, and emotional health issues unique to first responders; recruitment and retention efforts to restore workforce levels; onboarding and training costs; and explorer programs to engage young adults about first responder careers. The $75 million in funding to be awarded as part of the program includes approximately $1.3 million that was awarded to several statewide service providers in June.
The program is funded as part of the $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that Governor DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly dedicated to first responderslast year to help counter various pressing issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased stress and decreased staffing levels.
Governor DeWine has also placed enhanced focus on the wellness of first responders through the creation of the Ohio Office of First Responder Wellness within the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The new statewide office focuses exclusively on the well-being of first responders and provides 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.