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Mental health program for first responders gets OK from San Diego County supervisors

Posted: 5:54 PM, Sep 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-10 20:54:47-04
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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously signed off on a program that will provide quick access to help for first responders dealing with a mental health crisis.

The Captain Ryan J. Mitchell First Responder Behavioral Health Program will offer confidential mental and behavioral health support by connecting first responders with a clinical professional via a dedicated phone line, website or smartphone app. The program will be open to first responders in any jurisdiction or branch of public safety.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher proposed the program after speaking with firefighters and law enforcement officials around the county during a listening tour earlier this year. The program is named after Cal Fire Capt. Ryan Mitchell, who took his own life in 2017.

Mitchell's father thanked the board for approving the program. William Mitchell, who is a fire department chaplain, said sharing his son's legacy ``brings healing to our broken hearts.''

Fletcher said the board ``took an important step in furthering its commitment to behavioral health services'' with their support of the program.

``First responders across San Diego County in the midst of a mental health crisis will be able to quickly access clinician assistance confidentially without the barriers that today are preventing them from getting the help they need,'' he said.

Fletcher unveiled the program during a Monday news conference with officials from Cal Fire Local 2881, the San Diego County Deputy Sheriff's Association and local first responders.