BALLSTON SPA – Emergency workers have some of the highest rates of divorce, bankruptcy, and stress, according to Executive Director Ray Otten of the Community Emergency Corps of Ballston Spa.
His mission? – Reducing that statistic by offering reduced rates on a countywide employee assistance program for every emergency worker in Saratoga County, including fire, ambulance, and law enforcement.
“The reason I want to have a program available for all is because there have been literally hundreds of times when people coming back from a call need some help,” Otten said.
“It used to be we would talk with each other and help each other out, which is good to a certain extent. But, it comes to a point where people need professional help,” said Otten.
Suicide rates are also extremely high for fire and emergency workers, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council.
Otten explained that while some calls are routine in nature- falls, broken arms- others are life threatening and emergency workers must use their judgment quickly to assess the situation.
He said there are set protocols on how emergency management personnel respond to situations.
“Once we are there, we have to think very quickly and be very focused on our job as to what we need to do. People become very mechanical. You treat what’s most serious,” Otten said.
“You must look past the blood and don’t let it mess you up,” he said.
Emergency management service agencies currently work with three to four different companies that offer different levels of assistance from making financial decisions to family and substance abuse counseling and support.
Saratoga County is working on a Request For Proposal (RFP) so that the county can get the maximum benefit at the best value.
“The county will take the best deal, and the agencies will still pay for it through their funding, but the rates will be much better,” Otten said.
He explained if an agency is financing 50 employees it will cost that agency more than if the agencies finance 5,000 members countywide.
Emergency management workers work long hours with low pay and often have family issues because the family doesn’t understand the stress emergency workers are put through.
Otten said emergency personnel see people at their worst.
“You are calling us because it is the worst day of your life,” Otten said.
“You must look beyond the emergency and see what can be fixed. That can be very stressful. We have to determine who has a chance to be saved and who doesn’t. To make that decision as a human being is very tough,” Otten said.
“You can’t have that macho image that you can handle stress by yourself. You have to have the attitude that says ‘Hey, I might need the help,’” Otten said.
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