SE stress managers to help New York police

Teams from around the United States share counseling mission

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Five residents of Southeast Alaska have been requested to report to New York City to help police officers deal with stress in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The team is composed of four Juneau residents and one Ketchikan resident. The Juneau residents are Destiny Sargeant, a trauma psychologist with SEARHC, and police officers Kim Martin, Paul Comolli and Sgt. Jerry Nankervis. The Ketchikan resident is Dave Hull, an emergency medical technician with the Ketchikan Fire Department.

The cost of their mission is being shared among various organizations and borne by themselves, Comolli said.

"We were willing to take our annual leave, but the chief (Mel Personett) said the police department would cover our flat 40 hours. We are staying on bunk beds in the garage of a fire hall, so there are donations involved, too. CBJ Risk Management is lending us respirators, and we are getting prescriptions for Cipro, which we will use if exposed to anthrax." Cipro is an antibiotic.

The Alaskans' services have been requested by the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance, said Sargeant, who has a Ph.D. in psychology. The quintet will leave Alaska on Saturday and serve a full week.

"Sixty-five police officers were killed during the crisis (of Sept. 11), and thousands of police are working with the aftermath every day. We will also work with officers of the port authority."

The team's visit is being coordinated by the International Critical Stress Foundation. The team will be headquartered in Westchester County, N.Y., and dispatched to a variety of locations, including ground zero - the ruins of the World Trade Center - as needed, she said.

"Our team has been asked to come because teams from all over the United States are rotating in and out," Sargeant said. "SEARHC deserves credit for allowing me the time to go."

SEARHC is the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Sargeant, a Juneau resident for seven years, is the volunteer director of the Critical Incident Stress Management Team in Juneau, a nonprofit group that counsels local emergency workers on how to deal with stressful situations they encounter on the job. The team is covering transportation costs, she said.

Hull, a 26-year veteran with the Ketchikan Fire Department, felt similarly grateful to his department captain, Rich Leipfert, for allowing him to go.

"You train for this kind of thing and you want to have an opportunity to excel. At the same time, this is such a horrendous event that we would not ever imagine that we would be responding to something like this. There is real gratification that I am in a position to serve - but some real terror at the same time," Hull said.

He said his "terror" had to do not with "being afraid to go so much as I hope I am the right one to go."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.

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