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Behavioral Health Issues Taking Heavy Toll on Fire Fighters

UPPER MARLBORO, Md., Feb. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Fire fighters and paramedics regularly confront horrific events and life-or-death situations, a fact of the job that is taking a heavy toll on these dedicated public servants. Over time, these events wear on fire fighters, too often leading to substance abuse and co-occurring disorders - such as post-traumatic stress, putting their careers, their families and, potentially, public safety at risk.

After years in the shadows, the International Association of Fire Fighters is taking charge to tackle this emerging health crisis with the opening of the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery. Opening March 5th, the center is a one-of-a-kind treatment facility specializing in helping fire fighters cope with addiction and other behavioral health conditions, exclusively serving the more than 303,000 members of the IAFF.

In collaboration with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), a leader in behavioral healthcare management, the Center will provide IAFF members with evidence-based care for addiction and other disorders, including PTSD, anxiety and depression – conditions fire fighters experience at twice the rate of the general population.

The Center is overseen by Craig L. Katz, M.D., who designed a program for first responders following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, and Abby Morris, M.D., a behavioral healthcare expert. The Center will be staffed by ARS's highly experienced and specialized team, including behavioral health professionals who understand the fire service culture and fire fighters.

"Every fire fighter has at least three – often more -- emergency calls during their career they can never forget -- a family lost in a fire, a child that could not be saved, a community ripped apart by terror. These issues sit in the shadows as a hidden hazards, quietly impacting our members over the course of their long and dedicated careers. Many of them are facing these disorders in silence for fear of being stigmatized," says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. "The IAFF is stepping up with the help of ARS to take these issues head on and to get our members – professional fire fighters and paramedics -- the help they need so they can continue to do their jobs."

Center staff will take on the unique challenges of treating substance abuse and other complex issues, like PTSD in the fire service, and help develop protocols for fire departments to handle these complex mental health issues. The Center will also serve as a safe haven for members to talk with other fire fighters who have faced or overcome similar challenges.

In preparation for these challenges, staff members suited up February 27th as fire fighters for a day, part of the IAFF's FireOps101 training program. Staff members went through a series of simulated drills that gave a small taste of what a fire fighter experiences over his/her career.

"ARS is committed to putting behavioral health issues front and center, and this Center of Excellence really allows us to do that by offering high-quality, evidence-based therapeutic care to the men and women who protect communities across North America," says Lewis Gold, M.D., Chairman of Advanced Recovery Systems. "IAFF members experience PTSD at rates similar to combat veterans, and they need help. At this unique facility, we'll use our expertise in addiction and recovery to treat the whole person and get IAFF members back to the jobs and lives they love."

The Center of Excellence sits on a 15-acre campus designed to support fire fighters as they seek treatment and recovery. It has 58 beds with a state-of-the-art gym and other features that encourage physical activity so members can continue their fitness regimens and be prepared to return to the job. Center staff will also work with members and their families to ensure a successful return to home and work, and will help to identify a support network, develop accountability plans and provide links with peer programs so that members can continue with their recovery at home.

For more information about the Center or to get help, call 855-900-8437 or visit www.iaffrecoverycenter.com. The facility is located at 13400 Edgemeade Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772.

About Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS)
Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS) is an integrated behavioral healthcare management company dedicated to the treatment of addiction, substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health issues. ARS's network of treatment centers includes The Recovery Village (Umatilla, Florida); The Recovery Village Ridgefield (Ridgefield, WA); The Recovery Village Palmer Lake (Palmer Lake, CO); Next Generation Village (Sebring, Florida); and Orlando Recovery Center (Orlando, Florida). Visit www.AdvancedRecoverySystems.com for more information.

About the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the leading advocate in North America for the safety, health and training of fire fighters and paramedics and represents more than 303,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect communities in every state in the U.S. and throughout Canada. More information is available at www.iaff.org.

CONTACT: Allison Walsh, Advanced Recovery Systems, awalsh@advancedrecoverysystems.com; Mark Treglio, IAFF, mtreglio@iaff.org

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