For the first time, the Boston Fire Department Relief Fund, Boston Police Foundation and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts Foundation are teaming up to raise money, money for mental health, through the One Badge campaign.
“With COVID-19, the first responders are now put at even greater risk than they ever were before and we sort of took it for granted how much risk they were in before,” says Carl Jenkins, chairman of the Boston Police Foundation. “Now it’s crazy. There is no, from the police perspective, there is no social distancing among criminals. There is no social distancing arriving at an accident scene or dealing with domestic abuse, or dealing with day to day interaction with the community. ”
178 members of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts have tested positive for COVID 19. 10 City of Boston firefighters.
250 police officers across the state have tested positive as well. 76 Boston police officers and 12 civilians.
All money raised through the One Badge Campaign would go towards providing more mental health services, like counseling, grief programs, and physical health for police and fire across the state.
“We are going to see an influx. We have a member assistance program that if our members are having trouble, stress, substance abuse, anything like that. We do feel we are going to see an increase over the next couple months and that need,” says Rich MacKinnon, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts.
According to BlueHelp, a nonprofit that tracks law enforcement suicide data, there have 770 law enforcement suicides across the country since January 2016.
“The stress levels have increased as you might imagine. They are also still dealing with the same stresses that the rest of the population is dealing with. Financial issues, family issues. On top of everything else,” says Jenkins. “We actually provide funding for counseling services for police officers. We’re supporting their physical health through health bots and if you’ve ever gone into a drugstore, CVS or Walgreens, you’ve seen where you get your blood pressure taken. We want to put one of those in every district in the city.”
The One Badge Campaign hopes to raise money through direct donations, merchandise and the Social Distance Dash in May. You sign up on their website.
“I think it’s $25. It’s three days in early May. You can decide what length of the race you’ll do. You go out and you run or whatever you are going to do on your own. You have to report it back,” says Jenkins.
“You can either run one mile, three miles, six miles, half marathon up to a marathon,” says MacKinnon.
The idea is to support those on the front lines, and keep them going strong beyond COVID 19.
“It’s kind of a changing of the culture where years ago, it was just hey kid, this is the way it is, live with it. Where now we are getting the necessary counseling that we need to deal with some of the problems we see every day,” says MacKinnon.
The Boston Police Foundation also says something as simple as thanking a police officer or firefighter when you see them, can go a long way.
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