Newly formed organization aims to connect first responders to mental health support

Dec 24, 2018

This year’s annual Egg Nog Jog also brought the announcement of a new organization, called FRST Agency, that aims to help first responders and their families deal with mental trauma.

The agency’s name stands for First Responders Special Treatment.

Runners set off on the Egg Nog Jog course outside the Fleet Feet store in Rochester. This year's run coincides with the announcement of a new organization to help emergency responders connect with mental health support.
Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Rob Boutillier, president of the agency’s board of directors, said its announcement was planned to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the deaths of two first responders who were gunned down as they approached the scene of a fire in West Webster.

Boutillier said trauma isn’t always apparent right away. “I’ve had guys that have been fine after a tough call,” he said, but “six or eight weeks later, now they’re having dreams, or nightmares or whatnot, and flashbacks.”

The way that emergency responders approach trauma has changed significantly in the 40 years that he’s been in the field, Boutillier said. It used to stay hidden. Now, he said, it’s more common to be open about mental health difficulties, but still fire fighters and police officers too often think they’re battling mental crises alone.

“As time goes by, hopefully it’ll become a word out there on the street, out there in the field with the guys, that they have this alternative they can turn to” for help connecting with mental health professionals, Boutillier said of the new agency.

The FRST Agency is committed to helping emergency workers connect with mental health care, says its president Rob Boutillier.
Credit FRST Agency

A study by the Ruderman Family Foundation earlier this year found that more first responders die of suicide than in the line of duty. “First responders are heroes who run towards danger every day in order to save the lives of others. They are also human beings, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health,” the foundation’s president, Jay Ruderman, said in April when the study was published.

Ellen Brenner, the vice president and chief financial officer of Fleet Feet and YellowJacket Racing, which hosted the Egg Nog Jog where the FRST Agency’s formation was announced, said the run participants raised more than $1,900 in a matter of hours. “It’s especially impressive and positive, considering that we don’t even have a website up yet,” she said.