Local organization offers support for first responders’ mental health

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For a second time this year, a local police officer is accused of shooting and killing someone before taking their own life.

Greece Police Officer Tiffani Gatson is believed to be responsible for Monday night’s triple shooting on Costar Street. The sole survivor of the shooting is still recovering in the hospital.

News10NBC hears from a group reaching out to first responders to offer help. According to counselors with Code 4 Alpha, mental health issues if untreated can fester in the lives of a first responder, especially if they have no one who understands what they’re going through.

“The main thing is to get multiple sources out there for somebody so they can talk to whoever they feel comfortable with,” said Code 4 Alpha’s Cheryl Fridley.

It’s been two days now since Officer Gatson is believed to have shot 27-year-old Angely Solis to death on Costar Street. Police also believe Gatson shot a relative of Solis injuring her, before taking her own life.

Counselors with Code 4 Alpha, a support group of retired first responders of all types, say mental health issues for public servants are real.

“For years it’s been something that was never talked about,” said Fridley. She continued, “You just stuck it in the back of your brain, and something will trigger it years later and pops up, and becomes a new issue for you, and that’s why we’re here.”

In March of this year, investigators say Rochester Police Sergeant Melvin Williams shot, and killed Janet Jordan at her Wetmore Park home before he took his own life in a park in Henrietta. So far a motive hasn’t been released in that case. Police also haven’t released the relationship Gatson may have had with the women.

“The problem with law enforcement specifically which is the last 2 officers you’re talking about is, we have the same stressors that everybody does in life. You know financial, relationship, and all the other stuff that’s compounded by what we see on the streets, and it’s been a nature of the profession to not speak,” said Fridley.

She also says most first responder departments, and agencies already have mental health services.

“There’s employee assistance programs out there, but they’re also very organization based, and so we are an outlet for people that maybe don’t feel comfortable talking to somebody in their organization. We’re another source to them,” said Fridley.

The group’s motto is “Together then. Together now.” Counselors ready to give not only support but a listening ear.

“We will keep the confidentiality. We’re not telling anybody. You know it’s a fact of you can trust us. We’re here to help you. We don’t want to see any more issues like this,” said Code 4 Alpha’s Carl Simms.

Click here if you’re a first responder looking for a counselor or mental health program.