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Union County Sheriff’s Office First To Train Rank And File In Mental Health Wellbeing

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Ken Burkert, retired Union County Corrections Officer and former State PBA Vice President
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Union County Sheriff Peter Corvelli
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UNION COUNTY, NJ---Union County Sheriff Peter Corvelli said the Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health, will offer training on traumatic events in the workplace, peer-to-peer counseling, and mental health wellbeing for officers and supervisors.

The trainings, led by Princeton House professionals, are the first in their kind in New Jersey offered at a Sheriff’s Office. They are being offered free of charge, in conjunction with the PBA, and are voluntary for rank-and-file members (approximately 200 supervisors and officers) of the Sheriff’s Office. The trainings are expected to begin in September (on-site at the County complex in Elizabeth), and last two months.

 “Union County Supervisors and Officers are the first on scene at many tragic and violent incidents,” said Sheriff Corvelli. “They make decisions in split seconds under stressful conditions in order to protect the citizens and courts of Union County. By offering this training, we hope to help promote balance and enhance the wellbeing of those who protect and serve.”

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The trainings, which are being led by Michael Bizzarro, Ph.D., Director of First Responder Treatment Services at Princeton House (and a former Police Officer and military veteran) and Ken Burkert, a retired Union County Corrections Officer who was the State PBA Vice President (and a Chairman of the Peer Assistance Response Team for the PBA), offer tools for officers to help manage stress and trauma of the job.

 “The training is also designed to assist officers in identifying signs of stress in their peers. In a group of individuals who always run toward danger to protect others, there is often an inability to notice when troubling events have taken their toll. Our training can help officers detect problems before they become tragedies,” said Dr. Bizzarro.

Mike Heller, Union County Sheriff’s Officer and the Union delegate to the PBA, added:

“This program gives our Officers and Supervisors an important tool in dealing with the stress in their jobs,” said Heller, who is also a member of the Peer Assistance Response team for the PBA, which among its programs, provides a counseling component for its members. “The stress and trauma is a side of the job no one likes to talk about---and having this program which encourages them to talk and share their issues, will not only assist our men and women in their jobs, but in their daily lives and overall mental health.”

First Responder Treatment Services at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health provides customized care for law enforcement officers, firefighters, military personnel, EMTs, and other first responders while they are in treatment at Princeton House, an inpatient hospital for those with mental health and substance use disorders. Princeton House intensive outpatient and partial hospital programs also feature trauma tracks for men and women in Princeton, Eatontown, Hamilton, Mooresetown and North Brunswick.

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