First Responder Resiliency ECHO: Innovative telementoring during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The First Responder ECHO (Extension for Community Outcomes) program was established in 2019 to provide education for first responders on self-care techniques and resiliency while establishing a community of practice to alleviate the enormous stress due to trauma and substance misuse in the community. When the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic hit the United States (US) in March 2020, a tremendous strain was placed on first responders and healthcare workers, resulting in a program expansion to include stress mitigation strategies. From 31 March 2020, through 31 December 2020, 1530 unique first responders and frontline clinicians participated in the newly expanded First Responder Resiliency (FRR) ECHO. The robust curriculum included: psychological first aid, critical incident debriefing, moral distress, crisis management strategies, and self-care skills. Survey and focus group results demonstrated that, while overall stress levels did not decline, participants felt more confident using psychological first aid, managing and recognizing colleagues who needed mental health assistance, and taking time for self-care. Although first responders still face a higher level of stress as a result of their occupation, this FRR ECHO program improves stress management skills while providing weekly learning-listening sessions, social support, and a community of practice for all first responders.