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January 17, 2018
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IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery
Posted On: Feb 15, 2017

To All IAFF Affiliate Presidents,

Our members respond to any number of tragic events, and post-traumatic stress is a natural response to the accumulation of what they experience on a daily basis.

Left unaddressed, this acute stress reaction may lead to substance abuse and can develop into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a potentially disabling condition that can impact one in five fire fighters at some point in their career.

A host of additional behavioral health issues can also emerge, including anxiety, depression and even suicide. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with behavioral health is the number-one obstacle to seeking help.

Our union has a strong history of being the leader in the fire service for advocating for the health and safety of our members. We have made it a priority to raise awareness of behavioral health issues, reduce the stigma, and provide the necessary support and access to resources to assist our members struggling with addiction and co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, no facility that provides specialized treatment exclusively to our members from professionals who understand the culture and unique pressures of the job has existed – until now.

The Grand Opening of the new IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is Sunday, March 5.

We have partnered with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS) – a leader in behavioral healthcare management and addiction treatment – to build our new IAFF Center of Excellence. In addition to a professional team of experts who know and understand the kinds of traumatic events our members respond to daily, the entire staff at the Center of Excellence will be participating in a Fire Ops 101 on February 27 so they can experience the physical stress and strain that our members face on the job.  

Designed with fire fighters in mind, the Center’s surroundings, facility and furnishings reflect the familiar look of the firehouse. The new, first-of-its-kind facility will provide our members the specialized treatment they need to address substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD and depression, from medical professionals who understand the fire service culture and the unique pressures of the job; support research on and educate peer support members and mental health professionals on best practices; and will help develop needed protocols for fire departments to handle these complex mental health issues.

Understanding the behavioral and physical effects of the job is critical to keeping our members safe so they can continue to keep our communities safe. Our mission at the Center of Excellence is to offer treatment for successful recovery and help IAFF members return to the job.

We are tremendously proud of what we have been able to build for our members and the kind of quality care we are now providing to our members who need help.

If you are attending the IAFF Legislative Conference and are interested in attending the Grand Opening Ceremony, click here to register.  Transportation will be provided from the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill to the Center of Excellence in Upper Marlboro.

For more information about the Center, visit or download the FAQs,flyer for posting in your firehouses and infographics to use on your web site and social media.

I also encourage you to share this information with your members, as well as EAPs, peer counselors, fire chiefs, community mental health providers who work with fire fighters, human resources managers, medical directors and insurance contacts.

In Solidarity,

Harold A. Schaitberger
General President

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