Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
An infinite number of things can happen on any given day for a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employee.
Incidents at prisons such as an assault on a CDCR staff member or a riot where inmates sustain severe injuries can occur in a split second. Other tragedies can also happen in CDCR employees’ lives outside of work, such as a motorcycle accidents or home fires.
These things have all happened, that’s when CDCR’s Office of Employee Wellness (OEW) Peer Support Program (PSP) steps in.
“Starting that day , there’s boots on the ground dealing with the victims, other employees, their families, supplying resources, providing internal and external support,” says Chief of OEW Kathy Manzer, who was given a statewide HR honor for her PSP work.
The PSP was established in 2007, and fine-tuned in 2010 to ensure staff involved in work-related incidents, and others within the CDCR family, are provided with intervention and available resources to treat the immediate effects of a traumatic incident.
There are more than 900 CDCR staff trained to provide peer support. OEW’s staff members are the Peer Support Team for CDCR Headquarters; however all CDCR locations have Peer Support Teams.
Peer Support Teams, which must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide support, consist of staff from all levels and classification. They share a desire, commitment and passion to help fellow employees, co-workers, and their families in times of crisis.
They all receive four hours of initial training, 16 hours of annual training, and leadership is involved in a quarterly conference call. Each prison and juvenile facility has between 20 and 30 PSP members, including one administrator and a team leader.
PSP members provide psychological first aid to the employee, which can include; providing food and water, making phone calls to loved ones, answering questions, and or just being there so the employee is not alone.
Critical incident stress debriefing or grief counseling is offered in a group or individual sessions to allow impacted staff the opportunity to vent and learn how to deal with the emotional stress that may follow.
PSP team members facilitate the referrals to counseling by non-departmental licensed mental health professionals who have a specialty in law enforcement. Resources, such as those offered through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), are also provided to employees.
Staff response to PSP has expanded quickly.
In 2010, PSP was activated 97 times; in 2011, it was activated 321 times; in 2012 it was 770 times; 2013 it was 1,284 times; and from June through March of 2014 it was activated 490 times.
When asked if that number is alarming, Manzer says, “No, it’s actually a good thing because it shows the program is working, the word is getting out and people have a place to turn.”
The PSP also has a Suicide Prevention/Intervention Program for staff. PSP team members are trained in providing support, intervention and appropriate resources.
CDCR even has a Military PSP exclusively designed to help staff who served in the military. PSP team members provide information, support, and resources to employees and their families during pre-deployment and post-deployment to military duty.
This program was established to ensure support and positive working relationships between the Department and staff who have a military service obligation.
Last year, Manzer was awarded the prestigious Robert L. Negri Human Resources Achievement Award for her passion, leadership, and dedication to CDCR’s Peer Support Program.
One of the reasons for the recognition is because Manzer voluntarily makes herself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the program.
Here are some contacts:
• Rosanna Rodriguez, Statewide PSP Coordinator, (916) 327-7082
• Office of Employee Wellness, (916)327-8570
• PSP site: https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Wellness/sps.html