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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s first substance abuse treatment program designed specifically for first responders is officially up and running in Indianapolis.

Recovery Centers of America (RCA) Indianapolis recently announced the formation of the “RESCU” program, which is tailored with local emergency responders in mind.

“Most of these men and woman have been exposed to so much trauma, so they have a lot of high co-occurrence of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress,” said RCA CEO Stephanie Anderson. “There are so many out there that need help, and it’s scary to get it. It’s scary to find treatment where anonymity is key.”

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Tom Black, who has spent more than 30 years counseling and supporting fellow police officers and was one of the founding members of IMPD’s Police Officer Support Team, is serving as one of the primary therapists for the RESCU program. He believes addiction treatment designed just for first responders is long overdue in Indiana.

“Police run toward gunfire when normal people, as it were, would be running away,” he said.  “Firefighters are running into fires where everybody is escaping from them.

“And because we’re the helpers, it becomes very difficult for us to seek help,” Black continued.  “Maybe in the sense that it makes us look weak.”

A recent publication on the Addiction Center website cited studies that show 30% of first responders will experience issues like post-traumatic stress and anxiety that are often associated with drug or alcohol abuse. Black believes that 30% finding is probably too low.

“We’re really good about hiding our emotions, hiding our deficits, those things that we view, that others will view as being weaknesses,” Black said. “Then people tend to start using things like alcohol or drugs, legal or not, to help medicate themselves to help them through these traumatic times.”

The RESCU program offers a variety of treatment and counseling options, including medication-based detoxification, individual and family counseling, psychiatric services and more.  

On the first official day of the program, Anderson said there were already two first responders enrolled, staying at the facility on Township Line Road and undergoing the detoxification process.

“Spoke to all of the sheriffs on their board of directors last week, and within 24 hours, we had two patients already referred,” Anderson said.

Part of what makes the RESCU program unique is the ability for first responders to maintain anonymity within the facility. First responders undergoing treatment are isolated on the third floor of the building and interaction with other patients is restricted.

“You don’t want to sit in treatment next to somebody you’ve arrested or somebody you’ve resuscitated,” Anderson said.

“It’s safe for them,” Black said. “And not just from physical harm but safe from being outed as a police officer or a firefighter.”

In the past, local departments have sent members seeking treatment to similar facilities in other states. Now the option is available here in Indiana.

“We know that a big component of recovery is connection to your community, and that connection is really, really hard to make if you’re recovering in Florida,” Anderson said.

Currently, RCA has 12 beds prepared for first responders on the third floor. However, Anderson said that number could be expanded to more than 50 based on response to the program. 

To learn more about the RESCUE program, you can find information on the RCA Indianapolis website.