Guideposts for Lighthouse’s mission to help first responders thrive

by Emily Marchetta - Director of Content and Partnerships, Lighthouse Health & Wellness

When it comes to first responder health and wellness, the importance of providing resources to support those who protect us every day is clear. This need is recognized at all levels and in all public safety disciplines.  Yet, there are still barriers to getting the “boots on the ground” first responders the support they need, when they need it.

Lighthouse Health & Wellness (H&W) recognized this gap and created a health and wellness platform and programming to close it. We have done this by developing affordable technology that lets public safety agencies provide their employees and families high-quality, confidential access to health and wellness resources. These first responder-focused resources include a dynamic variety of media. This includes a comprehensive content library and a connection to the rich offerings from non-profits, state and national organizations and subject matter experts. 

Lighthouse H&W set out to help those who help us and has worked hard to overcome two of the largest barriers to first responders getting the health and wellness support they need, including: 

  • Trust in the resource quality and delivery system 
  • And convenient, confidential access to resources when help is most needed. 

Building trust through powerful partnerships

Creating a brand that consumers trust is no small task. There is an entire career field dedicated to branding. Lighthouse H&W has taken a multifaceted approach to building a reputation of excellence and genuine understanding of what first responders need. 

Content Development: Lighthouse H&W provides a comprehensive content library within its apps. This library includes in-depth articles and resources on wellness topics ranging from mental health to nutrition to spirituality. Considering the range and seriousness of the topics, it’s important to include feedback from subject matter experts to ensure the accuracy and cultural competency of the content.

That’s why Lighthouse H&W created the Lighthouse Content Advisory Board.

The Lighthouse Content Advisory Board is made up of high-profile thought leaders and experts in their fields. This includes representatives from law enforcement, corrections, dispatch, fire, and EMS who are experts on a range of topics. The board’s objectives include ensuring the Lighthouse H&W content library includes high-quality, up-to-date, and informative wellness information. It does this through an annual review process, advancing the Lighthouse H&W Resource directory by identifying and vetting resources and maintaining a robust inventory of available public safety training and qualified trainers in wellness topic areas. These efforts demonstrate the priority that Lighthouse H&W places on accuracy and cultural competency, cultivating resources on which agencies can rely.

Therapist Vetting: If users need support beyond the articles and resources in the Lighthouse content library, the Therapist Finder tool can help connect them with qualified professionals in their area. Lighthouse H&W carefully evaluates therapists in the provider network for cultural competence. The vetting process includes a thorough evaluation of the provider's experience and expertise. Professionals selected have a history of providing services to public safety personnel and families for at least 3 years. Or they have previously been employed in public safety.

Additionally, the therapists participate in ongoing, specialized training and professional development. This includes first responder-focused educational conferences, programs and training, such as Academy Hour's Certified First Responder Counselor program. The therapists do ride-alongs with law enforcement officers and firefighters. This ensures the professionals truly understand how first responder roles affect mental health, equipping them to help first responders immediately and effectively.

Academy Hour and Ambassadors: For Lighthouse H&W, 2022 was a year of unparalleled growth as an organization. A highlight of this expansion was the acquisition of Academy Hour, which provides practical, relevant and supportive mental health education. This helps first responders gain resiliency, longevity and overall well-being, on- and off-the-job. Academy Hour’s training programs are renowned and respected within the first responder community and introduce a wealth of resources to Lighthouse H&W offerings. 

Another area of expansion was in the Lighthouse H&W Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program helps first responder agencies prioritize wellness by offering focused solutions and ideas from industry experts with experience as first responders. Doug Monda, Raul Rivas, Chris Fields and other prominent leaders have partnered with Lighthouse as ambassadors to share in Lighthouse’s mission and provide invaluable perspective and feedback, positively impacting the organization as a whole. 

Partnering with entities and individuals who are passionate about providing quality resources and services to first responders, has allowed Lighthouse H&W to position itself as an organization first responders can trust. 

24/7 access for 24/7 jobs

The lack of convenient access is another major barrier to first responders being able to effectively connect with health and wellness resources . There are many excellent resources available to first responders. Many of these are free of charge. But they’re not always presented in a way that enables responders to find them casually, let alone in a crisis.

In addition, first responders often have erratic schedules and unpredictable shift work, making it even more difficult to reach out for help because their time of need often occurs outside of business hours.

Today, most people have smartphones with them 24/7. So, having health and wellness resources aggregated within an application on a mobile device is a logical way to provide convenient access. That said, Lighthouse H&W wanted to confirm this assumption. It wanted to engage directly with first responders to determine whether having resources on their mobile devices helped them.

The science of meeting responders where they are. Research is an integral aspect of Lighthouse H&W’s focus on the sustainability of resources and identifying opportunities for growth and innovation. The team focuses on continued resource development to make sure the Lighthouse program meets the needs of first responders and their families. Collecting data directly from first responders allows for an in-depth understanding of the most needed content and resources.

Research helps assess the needs and preferences of first responders. And research conducted within agencies helps them better understand first responders' efficacy in using the app. It provides insight into how they access all Lighthouse resources, perceptions of the app's utility, and engagement with the wellness program overall. The needs of first responders vary based on their years of experience, age, and culture. So, the Lighthouse H&W team also conducts research to better understand how to refine the program so first responders from all backgrounds can access relevant support.

Through the interviews and focus groups conducted across agencies, first responders emphasized the app's utility in providing an easy-to-access, in-hand hub of information on various wellness-related topics. Users find the comprehensive health and wellness content and resources a crucial aspect of the program.

The app allows first responders to find content that meets their unique needs at any time. First responders have also stressed a desire for clear and easy-to-find lists of contacts for mental and emotional health support. This includes local chaplains, peer support, culturally competent mental health professionals. Lighthouse H&W provides this within all customized agency apps. The app also helps address confidentiality concerns for those using support resources. Having the tool on their phones lets them engage on their own time without fear of losing confidentiality.

Acknowledging stigma, addressing confidentiality: As noted in the research findings referenced above, receiving help for certain healthcare concerns still carries a stigma. Having the ability to anonymously access resources and support for all aspects of wellbeing without fear of a loss of privacy is extremely valuable to public safety professionals.

Confidentiality is a serious concern related to using health and wellness resources. And while using a mobile app removes the social barrier of physically seeking help, fears of digital tracking present another obstacle to responders seeking the help they need. To address that concern, Lighthouse H&W developed its technology so that it does not collect individual user data. App users have anonymous access to mental health and wellness content, addiction awareness tools, assessments, and sensitive direction toward treatment and care, all with their privacy protected. This security is vital to building trust and encouraging responders to reach out for support.

Learning from the experts, agencies they serve. Lighthouse H&W continues to evolve and listen to the true experts on their products: those individuals and agencies actually using their technology and programming. Here is some feedback about Lighthouse: 

“A mobile app is a critical element to our peer support and employee wellness program, and Lighthouse made it happen at an affordable cost. We could not be more pleased with the Lighthouse Health and Wellness App for our Peer Support Team. … With this app, now all of our first responders can anonymously access the tools and resources needed 24/7. The wealth of information and potential with this product is endless. The mental and emotional wellness of our employees is our top priority and we wanted to make sure that the best resources are always accessible to them.”

Sgt. Colby Hill, Frisco Police Department, Peer Support & Patrol Division, Frisco, Texas 

"Lighthouse provides law enforcement officers and their families a new level of support during a time of crisis. It contains a great deal of information as well as a confidential pathway to reach out with concerns that will lead to essential support services that could be lifesaving."

– Bobby Kibber, Executive Director, National Center for Prevention of Community Violence and 30 -year law enforcement veteran

Emily Marchetta has spent the last decade honing her skills in digital marketing and communication, specializing in SMB marketing and content strategy. She’s held progressively influential leadership positions in start-up and enterprise-level health and wellness organizations, including dynamic roles in content management, writing, social media marketing, community management, and project management. She enjoys writing for business and creatively, especially on topics such as mental health, parenting, relationships, and holistic wellness, and her work has been published online and in niche magazines and journals.