Program Has Helped Hundreds of Officers and Their Families Since Sept. 11
Sep 12, 2002
As New York Police Department (NYPD) officers were called upon not only to meet their usual law enforcement responsibilities, but also to combat the effects of terrorism after Sept. 11, many turned to a program developed by the New York City Police Foundation and clinicians at Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital to improve access to mental health care and reduce the stigma sometimes attached to pursuing such care. The program, called the Health Initiative for Law Enforcement Officers (HILEO), has been providing free and confidential educational sessions and a telephone hotline and referral service for officers seeking help.
The program's four-fold mission is to:
- continue its clinical work with the NYPD and make mental health care more accessible to officers and their families,
- organize conferences and educational exercises at the national and international level,
- collaborate with other cities to help develop programs between law enforcement agencies and academic medical centers, and
- make policy recommendations to continue to enhance the quality of mental health services for law enforcement officers.
"We've been honored to collaborate with the NYPD on this program," said HILEO Director Dr. Frederic Kass, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and director of service of department of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's Columbia University Medical Center. "So far, we've received about 650 phone calls from law enforcement officers and of that group have treated about 300 officers and their families. We commend the NYPD for its efforts and hope to provide a model for other cities."
New York City Police Foundation director Pam Delaney says the NYPD worked hard to make officers aware of the program so they would utilize it.
"Our first step was to implement mandatory educational sessions so our officers knew the program was available, free, and, perhaps most importantly, confidential," Ms. Delaney said. "We felt it was important to hold these informal sessions so officers would not think they were being singled out and told to seek help. We also organized the sessions outside precincts—in church basements and recreation centers—so the atmosphere wouldn't be intimidating. That approach made a tremendous difference, and we look forward to continuing this unique collaboration with Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital."
The program will be discussed at a day-long continuing medical education conference in New York City on Saturday, Sept. 21. The course will review the collaboration between Columbia University, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the New York City Police Foundation and the NYPD, focusing on access to treatment, the importance of peer support, as well as clinical subjects including acute stress disorder, alcoholism, and suicidal risk. Family issues also will be addressed, as will the relevance of the anniversary of Sept. 11. For more information about the course, visit ColumbiaCME.org or call the Center for Continuing Education at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons at 212-305-3334.