By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
From office closures to evacuations, CDCR staff living and working in the path of Butte County’s devastating Camp Fire were heavily impacted along with their friends and neighbors. Staff also rushed to the scene to help.
Wiping out the town of Paradise, the state’s largest and deadliest fire drew firefighters from nearby inmate fire camps and institutions. CDCR also responded by activating Peer Support teams to travel to the affected areas. PSP was created to provide corrections employees with resources to cope with trauma. Over the years, the more than 1,200 peer support volunteers have helped many CDCR employees and their families.
“(Since) Friday, Nov. 9, CDCR Peer Support volunteers have been providing Peer Support to fellow law enforcement agencies, first responders, coroners, and Red Cross staff impacted by the Camp Fire. The mood of the PSP team is very upbeat considering what they are dealing with,” reported Katherine Minnich, Deputy Director of Human Resources. “Words can’t describe what the first responders are dealing with. They are heroes and yet (they and) their families are victims. … Members of our Peer Support Program understand the stressors and difficulties that come with responding to critical incidents.
“The Camp Fire has been devastating, and we want to use our departmental training and experience to offer emotional and practical support to those who have been responding to the Camp Fire so those responders can continue assisting their communities in the healthiest way possible,” she said.
While Deputy Director Minnich was the administrator of the PSP effort, she also was quick to offer thanks to those who helped in the massive undertaking.
“I was assisted and couldn’t have done it without Capt. John McClellan of California Medical Facility, and Associate Warden Gena Jones and Sgt. Daniel Rosensteel of CSP-Sacramento. I spent a day in Butte County talking to law enforcement and touring Paradise. I am at a loss of words to describe the devastation,” she said. “I am extremely proud of our CDCR Peer Support members who volunteered, as they have done a phenomenal job providing support and resources. Just today I received this note: ‘Thank you so much for all that you and your staff have done for us. It has been a true pleasure to have your staff here. Each and every one of them has been amazing and supportive during this very challenging time!'”
CDCR’s teams consist of custody, non-custody and clinical staff. To provide sufficient coverage, there were 20 to 22 PSP team members from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with two days on and two days off. CDCR was also asked to provide night shift PSP teams. The PSP members offered help through the end of November.