UCF RESTORES has received a $1.4 million First Responder Regional Support Grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families to expand its nationally recognized peer support and suicide prevention training for first responders in a 12-county region in Central Florida.

The award establishes UCF RESTORES —  a leading nonprofit clinical research center and trauma treatment clinic that houses the National Center of Excellence for First Responder Behavioral Health — as one of only six regional support centers in Florida offering free resources to first responders in need. UCF RESTORES was awarded an additional $270,000 and will work with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to build a statewide mental health wellness toolkit for first responders.

Across Central Florida, UCF RESTORES will provide three essential resources to enhance the behavioral health of first responders and their families:

  1. Providing peer-support training focused on mental health and suicide prevention. UCF RESTORES has a well-established REACT (Recognize, Evaluate, Advocate, Coordinate and Track) training program. The new regional support center will support training over 300 first responders across the 12 counties.
  2. Developing a large network of clinicians in the region and providing free training on first responder culture and treatments that work for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This will expand first responders’ access to well-trained and culturally competent clinicians who work in Central Florida.
  3. Three strategic summits will be held with first responder agencies across the region to assist in the development of comprehensive and local behavioral health services for first responders and their families, including access to appropriate outpatient, intensive outpatient, and when needed, inpatient services from agencies that are experienced in providing treatment to the first responder community.

Along with serving as a regional support center, UCF RESTORES will play a critical role in developing a statewide toolkit that has additional resources, including policies and procedures that support the development of mental health and wellness programs for departments across the state. These resources will be provided at no cost and spread across the state through all regional support centers.

“UCF RESTORES has a proud history of providing support to Florida’s first responders. Serving as the regional support center will allow us to reach even more first responders and their families in need,” says David Rozek, assistant professor at UCF RESTORES and the director of the National Center of Excellence for First Responder Behavioral Health who will serve as the principal investigator on the grant.

“Firefighters protect themselves with the necessary gear and equipment; they train to be able to handle the physical requirements of the job, but they don’t have enough training and education for their mental health,” says Doug Riley, chief of the Lakeland Fire Department and president of the Florida Fire Chief’s Association. “UCF RESTORES has been an incredible resource and partner over the years to help our firefighters with resiliency training, peer support training and education about trauma treatment options, and we’re so grateful to see these training programs grow.”

In addition to these new initiatives, UCF RESTORES will continue to provide no-cost evidence-based treatment throughout the state in the Rosengren Trauma Clinic with services in person and telehealth. For nearly a decade, its team has worked with countless agencies, providing treatment to over 600 first responders and training more than 1000 first responders as peer support specialists through its signature REACT peer-support training program.

If you are a first responder, peer, family member or clinician interested in learning more about trauma therapy and training, please visit ucfrestores.com or call UCF RESTORES at 407-823-3910 to learn more.