Pasco Sheriff's Office set to initiate pilot PTSD program for 1st responders

By Leah Masuda, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017, 6:49 PM EDT

Among the items set to be funded in the state budget on its way to Gov. Rick Scott's desk is a new pilot program aimed at helping first responders struggling with post traumatic stress disorder.

  • Pasco Sheriff's Office starting program
  • $150,000 set aside in budget for program
  • Program will be available to all first responders

Corporal Alan Wilkett has worked in just about every facet of law enforcement for over 20 years. He currently works as a human trafficking investigator for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

“Child abuse investigations is never easy, when you start working with sexual abuse physical abuse of children, it has a huge effect,” said Wilkett.

Wilkett says he suffers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, like many of his colleagues, who may not want to admit it.  

“There is that psyche within the law enforcement profession that you got to be tough all the time and you can’t let this be known or your perceived as being weak,” said Wilkett.

That’s why the Pasco Sheriff’s Office plans to start a pilot program for first responders who suffer from PTSD, starting with a website.

“People don’t want to go get help," said Sheriff Chris Nocco. "We recognize that because we’ve tried different ways and avenues. But when people are just at home and they’re by themselves and they’re thinking those horrible thoughts, maybe this site will be the site that can really unite people together and give them help on mental health.”

Nocco says it will be a website not just for the sheriff’s office, but for all first responders and their families.

“When we get called out, there’s stress on us, but at the same time the amount of stress on our loved ones not knowing if we’re going to come home, that sometimes is unbearable for them,” said Nocco.

Wilkett says he’s found ways to cope with his stresses by working the department's family support network. But he says for others, having a place to privately seek out resources could be the ticket.

The sheriff’s office plans to begin work on the website once Gov. Scott has signed off on the budget item.