Taking aim against hidden wounds of crisis

For the many hundreds of first responders operating daily in Chester County, the possibility of injury accompanies every call. But sometimes it’s “the invisible wounds that can be more devastating,” the county commissioners were told at their Sunshine meeting on Tuesday, June 21.

Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline (from left), Terence Farrell, and Kathi Cozzone say they used iPads for the first time instead of paper to review their agenda.

Look: No waste! Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline (from left), Terence Farrell, and Kathi Cozzone use paper-saving iPads to review their agendas for the first time.

The speaker was Chaplain Jerry Schwartz, the coordinator of Chester County’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team, a partnership between mental health professionals and “peer supporters,” consisting of first responders from multiple disciplines, who are trained to provide post-crisis support. Schwartz explained that witnessing tragedy often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Schwartz and other representatives from the team received a proclamation from the commissioners to support the stress management efforts as well as observe National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.

According to the proclamation, the first-responder community experiences PTSD at twice the rate of the average population and an estimated 22 percent of all paramedics will develop PTSD, which often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Increased understanding of PTSD “can help diminish the stigma” and lead to better treatment, the proclamation said.

Commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell asked the team representatives to convey the message to their particular disciplines that the board and citizens of Chester County appreciate their service.

Douglas J. Dunne holds his citation. He is joined by Chester County Commissioners Terence Farrell (from left), Michelle Kichline and Kathi Cozzone (right) and Vincent Brown,

Douglas J. Dunne holds his citation. He is joined by Commissioners Terence Farrell (from left), Michelle Kichline, and Kathi Cozzone (right) and Vincent Brown, executive director of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services.

In addition to recognizing the efforts of first-responders, the commissioners issued a citation to Douglas J. Dunne, who served three consecutive terms, totaling nine years, as a member of the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services’ Advisory Council. Vincent H. Brown, the executive director of the department, said Dunne was so valuable that the two-term limit was changed so the council could keep him longer.

“I would just like to say thank-you for the acknowledgement. It’s been an honor and a privilege,” said Dunne, stressing the importance of letting people know that services are available.

In other business, the commissioners heard recommendations to approve a number of grants and contracts that will come up for votes at the commissioners’ meeting on Thursday, June 23 – noting proudly that they reviewed the material on iPads.

Farrell said some years back, the county started to use both sides of the paper to print the agenda, which averages 30 pages. “We’ll be able to save some additional trees,” he added.

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said she had the opportunity to attend the graduation of the most recent Platform To Employment program, an intensive five-week course designed to offer job assistance to the long-term unemployed. Cozzone said in addition to career training and tips, participants end up with their own personal support networks.

“Three got jobs; the rest are primed, I think, to be employed,” Cozzone said. “I think it’s wonderful to know that this program is absolutely changing lives.”

Commissioner Michelle Kichline said she had an opportunity to spend time with a delegation from Hungary last week that stopped in Chester County en route to an international conference for physicists in Washington, D.C. “The feedback I got was that all they could talk about in D.C. was what a wonderful visit they had to Chester County,” Kichline said.

“They want to come back,” Kichline added. “And this is something I think we take for granted because we live in such a wonderful county, but they were very impressed with our presentation about our school districts, about our jobs…”

She added that her father, who immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1956 with her mother, even got to do some translating.

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