COTC to Hold First Responder Mental Health Summit

NEWARK, Ohio, August 5, 2019 – Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) invites police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics and others in the public safety field to its inaugural First Responder Mental Health Awareness Summit on November 13, 2019, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the John Gilbert Reese Center. This event is hosted by COTC's Institute for Public Services and Safety and is free to attend. Registration is required and available at

Following a 2017 white paper by the Ruderman Family Foundation which revealed that police officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, Institute for Public Services and Safety Director Kevin Reardon felt compelled to address this alarming trend. "Each professional [in a public safety career] is exposed to witnessing the best and worst in humanity — incidents that are difficult for most people to begin to understand," he said. "Historically, this has always been an issue but recent research indicates the problem is growing. I believe we need to do something."

Mental Health Awareness Summit FB.jpgThe First Responder Mental Health Summit was developed by COTC faculty and staff to bring awareness to the mental well-being of public safety employees and share resources that can have a positive impact. This one-day conference will bring together professionals from the mental health community, public safety officials and others that research or have experience dealing with responder mental health and suicide issues. 

Kenneth Yeager, PhD, is the first of two keynote speakers. Yeager is a professor-clinical in the College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University and is also director of the university's Stress Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program. Yeager holds the David E. Schuller Professorship for Patient Compassion and has numerous publications in areas of: crisis intervention, resilience building, treating co-morbid substance abuse and mental illness, quality improvement and developing quality metrics, and evidence-based practice. 

Brian Barkett, PsyD, is the second keynote speaker. Barkett is the founder and president of Better Minds Group in Granville, which specializes in psychotherapy. Barkett is a life-work coach and neurotherapy trainer that has worked with patients employed in public safety careers. He is a board member for Mental Health & Recovery for Licking and Knox Counties, an American Psychological Association and Ohio Psychological Association member, and a licensee of the Global Consulting Partnership.

Additional breakout sessions include:

  • "Peer to Peer Intervention" by Lt. Marty Fellure, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Steven Click, First Responder Liaison at Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services
  • "How Big is Your Bucket and What's In It?" by Lisa K. Callander, LISW-S, LICDC-S, MSW; and Mick Yinger, Executive Director of The Bridge
  • "The Body Keeps Score" by Kelly Campbell, LISW-S, Executive Director of The Woodlands Serving Central Ohio, Inc.
  • "Saving Those Who Save Others" by Jennifer Cramer, LPC, Outreach Team and Instructor at Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance

For more information about the First Responder Mental Health Summit, visit or contact Kevin Reardon at or 740-364-9564. The Reese Center is located at 1209 University Drive, Newark, Ohio. 

COTC's Institute for Public Services and Safety offers associate degrees and certificates in fire science technology and technical rescue, paramedic and emergency medical services, criminal justice, peace officer basic training and law enforcement technology, human services, and early child education technology. Learn more at

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.