Horizon Health Paramedic Ensures Colleagues’ Mental Well-Being

Horizon Health Paramedic Ensures Colleagues’ Mental Well-Being

Jesse Lewsader earns certification as resilience officer

Emergency medical responders are known for helping people. But what happens when they become the ones needing assistance?

That is where Jesse Lewsader comes in.

Jesse is a Horizon Health paramedic and shift lead who recently became a nationally certified Mental Health Resilience Officer (MHRO). In this peer-support role, Jesse educates his Emergency Medical Services (EMS) colleagues about the importance of good mental health. He is trained to identify those who are experiencing mental stressors and connect them with the help they need.

“It’s keeping my eyes and ears open and saying you can talk about anything you are going through,” he said. “Mental health issues have become so prevalent in our society that public service workers often go unchecked. To provide the best care for our patients, we must take care of us, too.”

Jesse is not a counselor or therapist but instead “bridges the gap” between frontline workers and behavioral health professionals. As a resource for them, his goal is to end the stigma of mental health for those seeking help.

“Healthcare can be burdensome and stressful,” Jesse explained. “My biggest hope is to normalize the conversation and say it’s okay to put your hand up and reach out for help.”

Samantha McCarty, director of emergency services, added: “Jesse’s commitment to public safety in Edgar and surrounding counties is second to none. Not only is he dedicated to his career, but his passion for mental health resiliency training and connecting responders to resources is needed and very noble.”

EMS workers face unique challenges, responding to fatalities, motor vehicle accidents, mental health emergencies, and other traumatic events. Those incidents can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.

“EMS can be feast or famine,” Jesse said. “You never know when, where, or what you’re going to get.”

MHRO certification is available through the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. The certification has existed for about a year and only a handful of Illinois safety agencies have an MHRO, Jesse said.

Currently, Jesse’s MHRO duties apply only to Horizon Health EMS employees. His goal is to become an MHRO instructor and expand the certification to include area police, fire, EMS, and 911 call centers.

“I envision this as a tool anyone can use,” he said.

Horizon Health has a Critical Incident Stress Management Team that prioritizes the mental health of all staff and affected community members during and after a traumatic event. Crisis-trained staff, behavioral health professionals, and spiritual leaders provide crisis assistance inside and outside Horizon Health’s walls, offering support to local police departments, fire departments, and businesses.