MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) – Thursday was National First Responder Day to honor the men and women who put their lives at risk for others. This includes firefighters, police, paramedics and other frontline workers.
First responders deal with trauma and stress every day – some recovering from drug addiction, healing together in a program in Chester County tailored to their unique needs.
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Putting their lives at risk to keep us safe, first responders are a courageous bunch.
“I’m a pretty tough cookie, I was a police officer for 20 years,” former policewoman Claire Lang said.
For Lang, a former Chester County cop, being tough had a devastating impact, it degenerated into drug addiction. She lost her job and then her heart.
“Losing my kids was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and I’ve been through a lot,” Lang said.
It is estimated that up to 30% of first responders suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and some struggle with addiction.
“We were going to have a beer after a tough call or a tough shift,” said Leah Mariani, of Recovery Centers of America.
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Mariani is an EMT and also a counselor at the Recovery Centers of America, or RCA, where there is a special program called RESCUE – which is only for first responders.
“There is the added level of comfort of someone who has been in my shoes and I know that and we can talk about it,” Mariani said. “It can be a little different to find a support system that they get it or you don’t feel like a burden because first responders in particular, we are the helpers. It’s not natural for us not to be the ones to give the help and say, like, “Hey, it’s my turn, I need help now too.”
RCA has a huge facility in Devon.
RCA has both inpatient and outpatient services, Lang says finding this community has been critical to her recovery.
“I share the good things, I share the bad things,” Lang said. “Being here and talking to the first responders here, they give me hope.”
Lang says she hopes to one day return to police work and that she hopes to find her children.
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