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March 01, 2024 | NEW JERSEY Ron Jeffers, New Jersey Editor
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

The Jersey City Fire Department hosted a two-day IAFF Training and Presentation at the Kean University auditorium in Union, beginning on November 20th. The purpose of this presentation was to make every municipality in New Jersey aware of what a real peer support team is, how to build a team and the effect of the team on saving lives within the local departments.

Retired Jersey City Deputy Fire Chief Paul Drennan is the driving force behind this program.

Drennan stated that peer support was there, but it was like the “Secret Service”. “No one wants to admit a problem, but there are people to help,” he said. “There's not a bigger calling in life than helping other people. This is a family,” he added. 

The presentation hosted 135 attendees, according to reports. Fire chiefs, fire officers, firefighters and mental health providers from throughout the state were there. 

Honored guests included Jersey City Chief of Department Stephan Drennan, Newark Assistant Fire Director Rufus Jackson, Newark Peer Support Team Leader Dayon Cobbs and FMBA President Ed Donnelly. 

The event's sponsor, Michael Barash, was also present. Barash and McGarry are New Jersey's lawyers for the World Trade Center Benefits and Compensation. Barash's generous gift of paying for the training made it all possible, Drennan said.  

Included in the program were testimonies from first responders who took a while before they admitted to themselves that they needed help, themselves. Drennan admitted some of his previous personal problems. “When I got on this job, I found a purpose,” he said. “It's not a job, it's a calling. What we see and do effects all of us.”

One of the themes was to break through the tough guy culture. Breaking stigma. It was reported that firefighter suicides double the rate of the general population. It's not weak, but courageous to seek help. An effective peer group can prevent tragedy. 

Some of the fire department members that attended came from Camden, Cherry Hill, Paterson, Orange, Hamilton, Carteret, Atlantic City, Elizabeth, North Hudson, Ventnor City, Newark, Woodbridge, Ocean City, Jersey City, Union, Scotch Plains, Bayonne, Wildwood, Hoboken, Gloucester City, Kearny, Millburn, Perth Amboy, Voorhees, Montclair, Morris County Fire Academy, NJ Disaster & Terrorism Branch and NJ CISM Collaborate. 

“We need to work from the inside out, within our departments,” Drennan stated. Share resources. Help each other through the departments, peer groups, unions, etc. 

Contact information can be obtained through jcfdpeersupport.com or 732-779-9214.            

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Ron JeffersNew Jersey Editor

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