By OPEC Staff

Kathy Manzer, Chief of the Office of Employee Wellness, was in Galt last week, helping train 130 peer-to-peer counselors when she was told she had to go to the California Highway Patrol Headquarters in West Sacramento for a “team-building exercise.”

She wasn’t happy, she said, but did as she was told – despite being “a little bit cranky” about it.

The real reason for the trip was to receive the 2013 Robert L. Negri Human Resources Achievement Award, presented annually by the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR).

She was being honored, ironically, for the creation of CDCR’s Peer Support Program (PSP) that was minus one instructor in Galt.


CDCR Officer of Employee Wellness Chief Kathy Manzer with the 2013 Robert L. Negri Human Resources Achievement Award, which was presented by CalHR Chief Deputy Director Howard Schwartz, right. (Photo by CDCR staff photographer Eric Owens.)

Andrea Rohmann, Deputy Director of Human Resources for CDCR, praised Manzer’s efforts in helping CDCR staff members and family.

“The Department has a model Peer Support Program that clearly exemplifies the value on the overall wellness of our employees. Kathy Manzer has done an impressive job in developing and implementing this program statewide and is well deserving of this recognition.”

Manzer, who has spent the bulk of her state career at CDCR, started the program in 2007 to ensure CDCR staff members who were involved in critical incidents are provided intervention, support and resources needed to treat the immediate effects of a traumatic event.

In the last three and half years, Peer Support Team members have responded to on-duty incidents of officer-involved shootings; staff assaults by inmates and wards; violent inmate deaths; agents wounded during shootouts with parolees; fatal shootings of parolees by agents.

The nomination for the Negri Award added that “Kathy recognized and understood the impact an incident can have on not only the employees, but their family members as well; therefore, PSP teams also offer support and resources to family members of our affected employees.”

In that vein, team members have provided help and support to staff and family affected by off-duty incidents, including the murder of staff members; the accidental drowning of staff members; deaths of staff members and staff members’ family; and staff suicides.

Staff response to the PSP has expanded quickly. In 2010, PSP was activated 97 times; in 2011, it was activated 321 times; and in 2012, it was 770 times. This year, PSP is averaging 100 responses per month.

The nomination notes “Kathy’s passion and dedication to the program,” adding that she makes herself available around the clock to provide guidance or assistance to PSP team leaders.

“Kathy is very passionate about this program and many times has been known to make personal phone calls to staff members who were assaulted or otherwise involved in a critical incident, to check on them and offer additional support.”

She also has offered help to other agencies – even in other states – in establishing similar Peer Support Programs.

In its announcement of the award, CalHR said: “That dedication exemplifies the purpose and spirit of the Robert L. Negri Award.”

Negri, who served as Chief of the Division of Personnel Management at Caltrans, was a member of the state’s first negotiating teams and chief negotiator at subsequent labor talks. He died in December 1990 at the age of 48.