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The Windsor Essex First Responder Coalition

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Our Aim

The Windsor Essex First Responder Coalition seeks to develop a unified and collaborative approach to building resilience, reducing stigma, and promoting mental wellbeing in First Responders. As a direct result of doing their job, First Responders are at increased risk of experiencing occupational stress and other mental health issues. In recognition of this, the partners work together to develop strategies and programs to address the continuum of mental health issues known to impact First Responders. It brings employer and employee representatives from all Windsor-Essex County First Responder organizations together to develop a consolidated and tailored approach to promoting mental health as well as helping those who are in need of increased support.

Our Objectives

The cornerstone of the project includes the establishment of a First Responder Mental Health Coalition (FRMHC). The coalition, consisting of representatives from all WEC First Responder organizations, St. Clair College, CMHA-WECB, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, Family Services Windsor-Essex, Family Services Employee Assistance Program and other mental health experts, would have the mandate to collaboratively undertake the following objectives:

  • Conduct an environmental scan of Windsor-Essex County First Responder mental health programs, services, resources, capacities, and gaps within 3 months of establishing the FRMHC.
  • Work with representative(s) from St. Clair College to investigate the feasibility of developing a common mental health module to be included in all First Responder programs offered by the college (i.e., Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training, Police Foundations, Paramedics) within 6 months of establishing the FRMHC.
  • Establish a mental health peer support sub-committee with representatives from each First Responder organization, to develop a clinician-guided peer support model which can be tailored to each organization – within the first 3 months.
  • Identify regional First Responder mental health, training needs (from the environmental scan) as well as efficient, effective, and sustainable strategies to address those needs. To be identified and implemented from 6 to 24 months.
  • Assess the need for mental health support services among immediate family members of First Responders. Based on the identified needs, offer and provide awareness, education, and skill-building opportunities using a cross-section of proven delivery methods. Assess needs within the first 9 months. Offer family support services from 9 to 24 months.
  • Explore and pilot various therapeutic animal support programs (e.g., K9 or Equine) for use with First Responders experiencing occupational stress or job-related mental health issues. Animal therapy programs to be piloted in the second year (i.e., 12 to 24 months) of the project.

Steering Committee

Chief Bruce Krauter

Chief EMS

Chief Steve Laforet

Windsor Fire

Chief Don Williamson

Lakeshore Fire

Chief Rick Arnel

Essex Fire

Chief Dave Sutton

LaSalle Fire

Chief Bruce Montone

Amherstburg Fire

Chief John Leonowitz

LaSalle Police

David Bohdal

Sergeant, Windsor Police Service
Health & Wellness Coordinator, WPS

Gordon Thane


Blake Cohoe


Mechelle Murphy


Chris Gaveart

Tecumseh Fire

Michelle Taylor


Beth Anne Ternovan

Family Services Employee Assistance Program

Chief Chuck Parsons

Kingsville Fire Chief

Kristina Gilboe

Windsor Police

James Waffle

Windsor Fire

Stephanie Bula


Emily Festa Bohdal

ICU Nurse

Kim Willis

Director Communications and Mental Health Promotion

Anita Riccio-Spagnuolo

Fund Development Officer