Princeton House Provides First Responder Treatment Services

Aug 27, 2013

Police and corrections officers, members of the military, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs are the first ones to run toward danger or disaster. Unfortunately, they tend to be the last ones to seek help when they feel overwhelmed by the pressures of their jobs.

As a result, the difficulties faced by first responders often escalate before they are treated. First responders are particularly susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and substance abuse. Their rates of divorce and suicide are significantly higher than rates among the general population.

Princeton House Behavioral Health (PHBH) recently launched an inpatient service tailored to the needs of first responders.

"First responders are strong, self-reliant people, so it can be difficult for them to ask for help," said Richard Wohl, President of PHBH and Senior Vice President of Princeton HealthCare System. "Our goal is to help them understand that there is no dishonor in seeking professional treatment. And once they make that step, our program is designed to help them get healthy and get back to the critical work they do."

Offered at the PHBH inpatient campus in Princeton, the program began earlier this year. Each patient undergoes a comprehensive evaluation, including assessment of medical, mental health and addiction issues, and receives individualized treatment which may include individual, group and family therapy; evidence-based practices; psychotropic medication management; nutrition counseling; expressive therapies (such as art or music therapy); and exercise. When indicated, this approach is integrated with traditional 12-step recovery based programming.

The program accounts for the cumulative effect of the stresses associated with critical incidents that first responders experience on a routine basis, said Michael Bizzarro, PhD, LCSW, BCD, director of PHBH's First Responder Treatment Services.

"The repeated exposure to tragedy can have a devastating effect on a first responder's relationships and daily functioning," Dr. Bizzarro said. "Some seek temporary relief through alcohol and other substances, which, over time, may lead to alcoholism or addiction. This abuse will impact every member of a first responder's family, so family participation is an important component of patients' treatment and is crucial to their recovery."

Dr. Bizzarro said treatment time for each first responder will vary depending on his or her psychological and medical needs. When first responders are ready to return to the community, PHBH helps coordinate their return to work and makes recommendations for follow-up care.

PHBH also refers first responders to outpatient providers and helps locate 12-step programs or "Bottles & Badges" support groups near their homes.

For more information or to make a referral, please visit or call (800) 242-2550. Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans are accepted.

About Princeton HealthCare System
Princeton HealthCare System is a comprehensive, integrated healthcare system that strives to anticipate and serve the lifelong needs of central New Jersey residents, including acute care hospital services through University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, behavioral healthcare through Princeton House Behavioral Health, rehabilitation, home care, hospice care, ambulatory surgery, a primary and specialty medical practice, and fitness and wellness services. For more information, visit