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May 2, 2023

First Response Mental Health Peer Support App- Nik Fiorito

First Response Mental Health Peer Support App- Nik Fiorito

Nik is employed with First Response Mental Health. He's a key player in the development of a peer support software that connects people who need assistance and teaches them how to do so successfully and quickly. 

Nick will discuss the platform, which is extremely cool and has a lot of fantastic features that you'll want to use if you need to efficiently and effectively connect a group of people.

First responders play a critical role in keeping our communities safe. However, the stress and trauma of the job can take a toll on their mental health. Peer support and mental health professionals play a critical role in supporting first responders and addressing the stigma and shame associated with seeking help.

If you're interested in peer support training, contact Jerry Lund at 435-476-6382 with The Complete First Responder Trainings or visit www.completefirstrespondertrainings.com. Let's work together to support our first responders and ensure they have the resources they need to maintain their mental health and well-being.


[00:00:00] Jerry: Hi everyone, and welcome to this week's episode Enduring the Badge podcast. I'm your host Jerry Dean Lund, and I don't want you to miss an upcoming episode, so please hit that subscribe button. And while your phone's out, please do me a favor and give us a review on iTunes or our Apple Podcast. It says, Hey, this podcast has a great message and we should send it out to more people. So please take that 30 seconds to a minute to do that review and just maybe by doing that, it'll push this up into someone's podcast feed that really needs this message. 

[00:00:29] Jerry: Everyone. I'm super excited to announce that I've teamed up with an incredible person, and that person is Dr. Tia White. She is a public safety, wellness and empowerment specialist.

[00:00:40] Jerry: Together, we have combined our knowledge and expertise to create a. Five day training course. Now, that training course, you can attend different days of that training course, whichever ones fit you, but day one would be peer support and how to structure that and get your team up and running, and maybe some of the legalities about that. Days two, three and four are going to be about advanced wellness and sleep and finances and family dynamics, and diet and nutrition and retirement and mindfulness and meditation, and how to be that complete first responder. But we did not want to leave out the significant other in your life, and that is gonna be on day five.

[00:01:21] Jerry: Feel free to bring that significant other with you. And we are going to do a training that's gonna empower the both of you to have a better relationship. A successful relationship and one that is going to stand the test of time as a first responder. For additional information, please go to the Instagram page called Complete First Responder for more details.

[00:01:47] Jerry: My very special guest today is Nik Fiorito. Nik works for First Response mental Health. He's a big part of developing an app for peer supporters, connecting people that need help and how to do so in an effective and efficient manner. Nick's gonna explain the platform, which is incredibly cool and has a lot of great features that you're gonna want to use if you just happen to be in the need of connecting a group of people efficiently and effectively. Now let's jump right into this episode. 

[00:02:21] Jerry: How are you doing, Nik? 

[00:02:22] Nik: Great. How's it going? Thanks for having me. 

[00:02:24] Jerry: Good. I probably didn't pronounce that with enough like Italian, you know, style of the last name. 

[00:02:30] Nik: That's all right. I, I mispronounce it probably every second time as well, so let's hear it. Let's hear it cuz it's a unique name.

[00:02:37] Nik: Uh, well, Fiorito yes, I, I believe it. It's like, uh, it means bloom and Italian or like the springtime when the flowers are blooming. So, 

[00:02:46] Jerry: awesome, awesome. So you got some Italian heritage there. 

[00:02:50] Nik: Yeah. Um, the city I I'm from is very, uh, big, big finish from Finland population and Italian, and I'm basically 50 50.

[00:02:58] Nik: So I do represent our, our culture pretty well, I think. 

[00:03:01] Jerry: Very cool. Very cool. Yeah. Nik, introduce the audience to yourself. 

[00:03:06] Nik: Yeah, so, um, I am a part of a software development group. Uh, a little bit different perhaps than some of your other guests who are. Very much in the, um, first responder field. Uh, we came about it kind of by accident, but I've been in software for about, um, 11 or 12 years now, developing custom systems for different groups.

[00:03:26] Nik: Uh, but, uh, as we'll talk about kind of this, um, challenge came to us, uh, about, uh, creating a peer support management system. And so, uh, the last five years or so, we've been really dedicated to that. But, uh, have a wife and a bunch of kids and, and really enjoy what I do. So 

[00:03:44] Jerry: a wife and a bunch of kids. Well, how many is a bunch?

[00:03:47] Jerry: Because I mean, I'm in Utah, you can have a lot that's like, 

[00:03:50] Nik: oh, okay. I'm probably average for you. I'm very, very, we stick out like a sore thumbware. I'm from though. So we have six, uh, four boys, two girls ranging from five to 17. 

[00:03:59] Jerry: Oh wow. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you could be from the area. I live in Utah. There you would fit in.

[00:04:05] Jerry: Right in. 

[00:04:06] Nik: Yeah. There you go. 

[00:04:08] Jerry: Well, that's a lot to manage. So Nik, you, you're with a software company, but you're connected to the first responder world. That's why we have you on here then, and that's very important how you're connected to the the first responder world. Can you explain a little bit about that?

[00:04:21] Nik: Yeah, so, um, My wife actually is a, an 9 1 1 dispatcher. Um, close family friends work in, in law enforcement and in paramedicine actually, uh, quite a few of my close friends are, are medics up here. Um, and that's kind of part of our origin story as well, uh, with how the peer connect platform came to be was through a, through a contact that I knew that, um, Helped to revamp, uh, the local e m s services, peer support team, and then we were talking and, and got to thinking about what would a more process oriented version of peer support be?

[00:04:56] Nik: Something a little bit more, not, not more managed, but just with some different functionalities. How would that look taking what we were doing in the custom software side with. Industry and gold mines and, and things you wouldn't usually equate to first responder field. Right. But, but the underlying process and, and key performance indicators and things like that.

[00:05:15] Nik: What would that look like if we kind of put that spin on, you know, first responder mental health and wellness? Particularly in the peer support field. So, um, that's, that's kind of how we, we got into this field was through just a contact, kind of bring us this challenge, uh, that he was facing. And that obviously as we came to know, was quite universal in the field.

[00:05:37] Jerry: Yeah. And what was that particular challenge that he was, he was facing? 

[00:05:41] Nik: So this group in particular, um, I'm in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and that's where we started. Um, the group here, superior North ems, they have, uh, quite a broad range of. Client types of, um, geography, they cover a wide area. Uh, I be, it would probably be, I believe it's about a six hour drive.

[00:06:01] Nik: Uh, east to west to cover the whole area that they cover. And that's land transportation as well. So air ambulance is covered by a different group. 

[00:06:07] Jerry: Oh, wow. 

[00:06:08] Nik: So, so for someone in a base up in let's say Armstrong, these, no one's gonna resonate with these, uh, these places, but Armstrong Marathon, you never know.

[00:06:17] Nik: Yeah. Ignace. These places are two or three hours from kind of the centralized hub of Thunder Bay, east and West. And so, um, so my contact, my friend John, he was the newly appointed, it was the first time they had a peer support coordinator, like a dedicated, full-time, um, person in that role. And that was 2018.

[00:06:35] Nik: So e e even the role itself was a pilot kind of thing. A three year term. Yeah. So he started doing it and he started facing the challenges that I'm sure a lot of your listeners will have where, whether it's Geograph, geographically dispersed, or whether it's just the challenge of just connecting with people.

[00:06:51] Nik: How do we know that that crew in Marathon, which is three and a half hours from, from where he sits in Thunder Bay, how do we know they have the resources in hand? How do we know that they've been followed up with, you know, if one of them, you know, bad calls are one thing, but just. If someone has cumulative stress or, or trauma that they're kind of dealing with, how do we get them the help they need when they're so far away, when you know there's an intranet, there's bulletin boards, but kind of moving into more of a new school, 2023 or at that time, 20 18, 20 19.

[00:07:19] Nik: Technology of, of connecting people, right? 

[00:07:21] Jerry: Yeah. Having that at your fingertips. I mean that, that's an incredible challenge, that trying to be connected as an organization over such a huge distance. 

[00:07:32] Nik: Exactly. Yeah. And so and so he was driving, he was doing the work, putting. In the time and going to all the bases, talking to people.

[00:07:39] Nik: Um, but that can only stretch so far. And so they had, um, they had had a peer support team in the past. They kind of revamped it, had about 20 train peer supports that they ran through a training. Um, and we e we, even to this day, we've stayed out of the training side. We've stayed out of the, what does the conversation happen when you get to talking to that person?

[00:07:57] Nik: Mm-hmm. We just kind of provide the platform, almost like a dispatch or a peer support connection system to make sure that the connections happen. But there's so many different styles. There's so many schools of thought of, you know, okay, now you're in front of this person. You're on the phone with them.

[00:08:10] Nik: What do you say? We've stayed outta that, right? Because there's people far more expertise than us on that. So we're happy to just provide the platform that makes those connections. So, So we got to work, um, with them kind of just thinking it would be a, a one-off, another kind of custom project that would be, uh, really neat to work on.

[00:08:27] Nik: Uh, and then when they launched in May of 2019, it was very shortly after that other, it started with other e m s groups in Ontario hearing about what they were doing because obviously it's a kind of a close-knit group. There's conferences, there's things like that. And just more and more of them started to ask us about it and we started.

[00:08:44] Nik: You know, providing them with the, the platform for their members. And then, um, we decided this is, this is a thing unto itself. So we kind of split, created the new company called First Response Mental Health, branded it Peer Connect, and made it kind of available, um, with all the, all the different options that a product has, uh, kind of North America wide.

[00:09:04] Nik: So that's, that's kind of the origin story there. 

[00:09:07] Jerry: Yeah. Very cool. So, I mean, can you describe kind of what that platform, uh, looks like? 

[00:09:14] Nik: Definitely. So we we're a development house kind of. We were, we are first and foremost, so we have really been, uh, quite aggressive on listening to how people use it and coming up with new features, meeting the needs, new reports, all the different things that, that peer support coordinators, wellness programs that they're looking for.

[00:09:31] Nik: Um, so we've been very active on development. Even to this day, we're doing almost monthly releases with, with enhancements and features that people are asking for. So that's been a big part of it. The, the basic premise is, um, you can have, you have your bulletin boards, you have your, um, intranets, you have websites, you have even other apps that show you information.

[00:09:52] Nik: So what's the number for our e a p or what's mm-hmm. What's even the numbers for our peer support team members? Yeah. It's, it's a little bit more static and it's good and Pure Connect has that side of it. So it has a resource bank. It has, um, that is kind of collaborative, collaboratively filled by. The people participating and by other groups.

[00:10:12] Nik: So it's got that side of it. But we wanted to put some process and some action into the peer support side of things. So, There's kind of three ways to connect within the system. You can just push a button and that will notify the peer support team that you would like a check-in. You can also curate or customize who on that peer support team would receive your button.

[00:10:32] Nik: Press notifications. So, you know, in this original group they had 20 people. Maybe. I just would prefer that maybe three or four of them didn't get my request. Mm-hmm. When I pushed that button. Each person can kind of curate their own. Private secret list. Okay. That, that becomes the filter. That when I push my button or any of the other ways, uh, it always just goes through that list.

[00:10:54] Nik: So I'm always contacted by someone I'm comfortable with and have kind of pre-approved and no one knows who's on anyone's list. So I can push a button, um, that notifies the peer team, one of them. Can commit to it. When that person commits to it, kind of the first one that kind of takes it and has the time.

[00:11:12] Nik: Uh, they know that I've preapproved them. Otherwise they wouldn't see it. They wouldn't know about this situation. Yeah. Once they commit to it, it goes away. For the other people that may have, may have gotten that request. Wow. So they don't see who took it. They just see it's been taken care of. They don't have to worry about it.

[00:11:27] Nik: So some of the feedback we get from our coordinators running programs is that it's really reduced by like multiples, um, the number of hours they spend. Playing phone tag. Who's gonna call whom, Hey, I heard this person might need to reach out. It all kind of manages that, not quite automated, but enough that, um, it really takes the coordinator's role not out of that, but now they can set back, the program can kind of run itself and they can just fill in as needed.

[00:11:52] Nik: There's escalations, there's different, you know, safeguards built in, but they can more worry about, um, Meeting with people, talking to people, talking to their peer team, understanding what the needs are, and maybe looking for more resources to provide out of those meetings that the peer supports have. So, so that's the one way.

[00:12:11] Nik: Um, some of the other ways are if you're a, maybe like a shift supervisor and you know that a crew went to a, you know, critical incident or a bad call or something like that. Mm-hmm. Or you just know someone needs a check-in, you can recommend that person and give a reason why. Check choose from a list of reasons why.

[00:12:26] Nik: And again, that goes through the same process. The people on their pre-approved peer team will be notified. It will say recommended by Jerry because of critical incident. So the person that commits to that knows Okay. This is why I'm talking to this person. So those recommendations are really important too.

[00:12:43] Nik: Right. Um, it takes the, it's just so much easier. It's just on the app. They can do that recommendation in a few seconds and they can wipe their hands of it. Um, in terms of, obviously they care, but they don't have to follow up. Yeah. They, they don't even get to follow up. They can just trust the process has been taken care of.

[00:12:59] Nik: They've done their, their job and they're not, you know, we're trying to lower kind of the, the gossip or the, Hey, I heard you met with this person. They don't even know who. Sure. Yeah, so they can't even follow up. Um, which is nice. And, you know, something that we heard from front end users, that's a problem sometimes.

[00:13:16] Nik: So, yeah. Um, and then the third way and the, and the way that not gets us most excited, but it seems to have a lot of really good feedback, really good stories coming out of it is the proactive side. And so a lot of groups, um, everyone wants to be proactive, but it means different things to everyone. Right.

[00:13:34] Nik: Like I could hand you, I can, I can give you my phone number and say, Hey, Jerry, call me anytime. Like, I'm being proactive, you know, in, in helping you in a way. Sure. For us, what it means, and the process that we have is that a group can set a maximum amount of time that someone can go without just a touch in touch base.

[00:13:52] Nik: A check-in. Yeah. And so a lot of our groups will set that for a year. And so if I don't push my button, I don't go in to any calls. No one checks in on me, and a year goes by, let's say my name is just gonna pop up to my pre-approved team, and it will say scheduled, so they know I, I don't have to call 'em at three in the morning, but I'm gonna commit to that one, and I'm just gonna do the, the annual check-in.

[00:14:15] Nik: See how Nick's doing. And so, um, that's really nice to just have a system manage that to be able to turn around to your chief or your committee or your, your administration and say, our peer team has a hundred percent coverage every year, at least everyone gets a check-in. And so you can set different timers, like new recruits, maybe you're checking in on them more often for the first year people off on sick leave or stress leave, maybe it's every six months.

[00:14:38] Nik: So you can kind of define what works for your group and even, you know, the ratio of peer supports to the. The total population, obviously you have to kind of match that. So, so it's not overwhelming for them, but it's very customizable. We set it up for each group exactly how it works for them. Um, and so it's just really nice.

[00:14:55] Nik: And, and what we found, so the research supports this, but even just anecdotally what the stories that we hear are those proactive reach outs. They, they hit a different kind of sweet spot in the conversation than when a person reaches out themselves, which people are very hesitant to do often. Right. Yeah.

[00:15:12] Nik: So we know, uh, um, we know it takes some time for people to, to actually look up that peer supports number and, and reach out to them. Um, it's not uncommon, but it takes a lot of work to do that with the proactive, when you're getting a call, what we've found is that people will open up a little bit more.

[00:15:30] Nik: We have some stories of people saying, ah, you know, it's almost a, a breath out. Like a breath pressure. Yeah. Ah, actually I've been. Thinking about calling, thinking about getting some assistance. Thanks for calling, what do I do? This is how I'm feeling. Um, so that's been super exciting for us to hear stories like that come out of that and, and that's kinda the process behind the system that doesn't rely on that individual reaching out themselves all the time.

[00:15:56] Jerry: Yeah. That's awesome. That mean, it sounds like an incredible app. Do when they people communicate, is it within the app or do they like communicate like outside of the app or how's that work? 

[00:16:07] Nik: Good question, because that's been a bit of a, a conversation, um, no pun intended, but, uh, amongst us, because some groups really want that.

[00:16:15] Nik: They want the communication in the system, and a lot are quite opposed to that because the, even the notion that, you know, hey, the chief can log in and see what your. See your chat between yourself and the peer support. So, so far, um, and basically it's our plan. We do not do, it's not a chat app. It makes those connections happen and there's a way to, for the peer support to kind of click off that yes, they did meet with that person.

[00:16:40] Nik: Um, but the chat takes place naturally, however, groups are already doing it, whether it's over the phone, over coffee, in the break room, however, they're already doing it. Again, like I mentioned, we stay outta that. That conversation, what to say piece. We also stay out of the tracking verbatim what the conversation was.

[00:16:56] Nik: So there's no way to go back in for anyone to go in and say, Hmm, what did Jerry and Nick talk about? You can't even see that Jerry and Nick met together. You just know that the request has been satisfied. 

[00:17:06] Jerry: Yeah. That's super important Nick, cuz I think Right, depending on where you're at in the country and the or in the world, right.

[00:17:11] Jerry: To different laws. Exactly. That may like say, Hey, we want to see what Jerry and Nick talked about and we're gonna request that legally. 

[00:17:19] Nik: Exactly. Yeah. And, and you know, with each kind of first group in each state, we have to relearn, okay, what is, what are the rules, uh, the regulations in this particular space?

[00:17:29] Nik: So, um, that's been a, a fun challenge. As we, as we get a new group in each state, we say, okay, you know, do you have, is your peer support covered in confidence? Is, what's the legislation like? Uh, here, you know, are you. Are you mandated to do a certain number of hours of training? Because we're building in a little l m s, um, side of it too, for resiliency training for, for, um, contributors or service providers, like, say, Say peer support trainers we're building in a, a space where they can offer their training through the system as well.

[00:17:59] Nik: Um, whether that's the full training or supplemental, but the rules are different everywhere, right? Yeah. Some have to be 40 hours in class, some can be online, some have no rules, uh, wild West style. So, um, it, it's just, it's been interesting to learn in every new group we meet in a different state is it's pretty exciting to just understand how they, they operate, how they run, how they're structured.

[00:18:20] Jerry: Yeah, so do they, are people able to connect outside of their like departments or regions or whatever? Are they able to connect with others outside of that? 

[00:18:30] Nik: Yeah, so this has been, it's been a request and it's kind of not a new feature, but we've really enhanced it. So just before, um, Christmas 2022, we came up with kind of v3, we call it our third major version of the system.

[00:18:43] Nik: And that was to accommodate all the, where the trends seems to be going is that groups are joining together, they're creating kind of regional consortiums or even statewide. We have a couple groups now that are doing the whole state, but more often it is, um, smaller kind of groups together. That have maybe small peer teams or they don't have a peer team, but they're, they're grouping together.

[00:19:05] Nik: And so each group can have its own resource bank, its own newsfeed, its own events kind of section. They can have all the communication side separate for themselves, but they can share peer teams across. Oh yeah. So what that looks like for you, for example, we have a group of five kind of suburban police departments that have their own peer teams.

[00:19:23] Nik: They're all around a hundred staff. Um, so they have their own kind of smaller peer teams, but they share together. I. So for me, if I'm, um, an officer in one of those, uh, one of those departments, when I go to press that button for request, it's gonna ask me, from which team would you like to request? Because I may not want my internal team knowing about this, or maybe my problem is with, within the organization, but I still want to talk to a peer, a trained peer that's, yeah.

[00:19:47] Nik: You know, had that training. So I can request outside. Um, similarly we do have some groups breaking it up, whether it's, whether it's internal or external. Maybe I have a button. Maybe I have a team of peer supports, but I also have a chaplaincy team available to me. And when I push that button, I get to choose, okay.

[00:20:03] Nik: I actually wanna choose from the chaplaincy team and outta the 10 chaplains, I've already curated my list to six of them that I'm comfortable with. Right? So very nice. Puts a lot of, um, autonomy in the hands of the individual reaching out, and it puts some back into the peer support's hand as well, because what we were hearing is that.

[00:20:24] Nik: Traditionally you would get, if you had your peer support team of 10 people, you'd print out their names, you print out their phone numbers and you put them in every kind of outlet or, right, right, right, right. And so if I'm a peer support and I just came home from a terrible shift. And my kids are crying and you know, I, I gotta make supper too.

[00:20:44] Nik: I'm like, man, I hope no one calls right now cuz I'm really gonna let them down. Right. It might be a bit of a reverse conversation. Yeah. Um, so for that peer support, now they may still get a notification. Someone has requested support, but they know that that's being kind of disseminated to a, a, a team of more than just me.

[00:20:59] Nik: My name is not, my name and number aren't just hanging out everywhere. 24 hours for people to. To directly connect with me. Yeah. If I, if I'm able to, and if I'm in a good place, I'll commit to that. I'll make that call. Um, you know, I'll, I'll connect with that person. But I know in each group they can also set minimums and maximums so that it's not just you.

[00:21:19] Nik: Right? Yeah. So they can say everyone's gotta keep at least five people on their team so that we have this kind of dispersed. Process so I know, okay, I don't need to take that. That's gonna be taken. And if none of them take it, then I know it's gonna be escalated to another group that's kind of an escalation coordinator or something like that.

[00:21:37] Nik: So kind of a few different fail safes built in there. 

[00:21:39] Jerry: Okay. Yeah. So, sorry, there's like a time, let's say I pushed my button, it's been an hour. No one's like got back to me. Does it escalate in to another level of someone? 

[00:21:51] Nik: Yeah. And each group can decide. So, so it's kind of an out of the system decision on a how long is, how long is too long for us?

[00:21:58] Nik: Mm-hmm. So they can decide, um, they can decide if it's gonna reify that team. So maybe everyone just happened to miss the notification or they're waiting to see if someone else will take it. It can reify the same, let's say the same five people. Um, so you can decide how often and how many times it does that, or.

[00:22:18] Nik: And or it will kick up to escalation managers who the group defines, and then they'll get a notification and when they get one, whether it's, you know, the kind of shift supervisor who is ever in charge at that point, or if it's the peer support coordinator, they know, okay, it's an escalation now no one took it.

[00:22:32] Nik: And they have some options. In the back end of the system that they have kind of permission for where they can directly assign it to someone. They can make the call themselves, they can close it off, they can do a bunch of different functions within there. Um, so yeah, obviously we never want anyone to kind of be left stale or waiting.

[00:22:47] Nik: Sure. So there are some fail safes in there. 

[00:22:49] Jerry: Yeah, and I guess let's say I wanna reach out to like a, someone outside of my department, but I don't really know anybody, like any names or anything like that. Do, is there like a place that has like a little profile, a little bio or something like, Hey, Nick's got a background in, I don't know, he likes fishing and, you know.

[00:23:08] Nik: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So this like, you haven't even seen the system and you're already like three layers deep, which I like. Because it means that it's hopefully understandable and obviously it was built with, with people using it and having these questions. So yes, when you go and have a look at the available peers to you, whether you have one team or multiple teams available to you, there is a place for each peer to put a bio in.

[00:23:29] Nik: So, uh, I can put, you know, I've worked here for 10 years, uh, previously I was this, I'm trained in this, I've been involved in A, B, C. Um, so that person can, um, Have a look and see, because in a big agency you're not gonna know all 50 peers. Right, right. You're not sure what our next kind of level to that is.

[00:23:49] Nik: Um, actually putting some kind of smart algorithms in there for really big groups where you're not gonna know, we're gonna kind of promote certain people that maybe match your interests or your location or maybe your rank, uh, if we're gonna get into that with some groups. So that's kind of where our next phase of, of kind of development is looking at going.

[00:24:08] Jerry: Yeah, that's pretty cool because. Right. You don't want, maybe I'm the deputy chief or something like that and, right. That's kind probably, I'm a very limited group of people I can talk to or Yes. Or I'm a chief, like I don't wanna reach out to maybe my peers that are, I'm supervising. 

[00:24:26] Nik: Yeah, and that's, that's another really good point.

[00:24:28] Nik: So, um, in one of the states we're working in, in South Carolina, it's a statewide project we're putting out and we're calling it chief to Chief, which, you know, not everyone is a chief, but trying to get the peers kind of laterally in the same position so that you can reach out and have someone connect that understands what you're going through.

[00:24:48] Nik: And also isn't, um, someone that you're supervising or like. In charge of, right? Yeah. Uh, and vice versa, because we know that, um, people are a little bit more hesitant to fully kind of get into things with their supervisor, with their, their immediate, um, kind of person ahead of them, uh, for fear of whatever.

[00:25:05] Nik: Right? And we don't have to get into that, but that is just a real thing. Mm-hmm. So we wanna, it's peer support, right? It's lateral. So we wanna make sure that people are connecting with similar people. 

[00:25:15] Jerry: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. That's pretty awesome. But that's like, is that within the same app that's just a different level, or is that in, in its own?

[00:25:22] Nik: Yeah, so when we started out, we were building specific, like custom labeled apps for each group. Mm-hmm. Um, so like if a group signed up, it would have their name, their logo, it would be just for them. Um, one, one reason that we. We've gone away from that is because the Apple store doesn't like that actually.

[00:25:41] Nik: They don't like when you just kind of template a bunch of different apps. Yeah. So that's kind of a side reason, but, but the real reason we've gone to now just peer connect, um, with our latest version is because it allows. These connections, these, um, collaborative relationships that everyone was asking for, uh, is basically impossible to do with all these separate kind of databases and stuff, right?

[00:26:01] Nik: So we've been able to, um, make a lot of these requests happen by moving just to one system. You're still, um, invited, you're still part of your department, um, your, your group that is, you know, The one that's kind of supervising you or paying for you, really your organization. You're part of that. But now there are other options to you to connect to different groups for groups to join together.

[00:26:22] Nik: Um, and for less of a waiting game of hoping that that group also signs up. Um, you can kind of, yeah, we can do a lot more with kind of more of the central. So now everyone now is downloading the peer connect app being added, uh, to their organization. Which also helps if, if you work a lot of the case with volunteer fire or e M S services, people work at multiple services as well.

[00:26:45] Nik: So it's just one app. They're, they're kind of brought into their newsfeed now is an aggregate of if they work for two or three places, it's an aggregate of all this. 

[00:26:53] Jerry: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's great. So is there a way to like, Does the department put the members into the system or do I sign up? Or like, how am I, how am I like let into the, into the system?

[00:27:05] Jerry: I mean, like, let's say Joe Blow and the committee wants to, he wants to get in and see what's going on. I mean, is there a way to vet people? 

[00:27:12] Nik: Yeah. So. The, so there's a few different ways because we have, we have support for spouses, retirees, we have support for external people to a department, right? Yeah.

[00:27:21] Nik: And so typically if I, if I'm an employee or, or a volunteer firefighter, for example, let's say I'm a police officer, I will get added, I'll get a, um, registration email, like an invite to the system. From my peer coordinator, from my system admin. And so I follow the link, I create my password, I choose my peer team.

[00:27:39] Nik: I prefer my preferred, um, contact method in there so the peers know how to get ahold of me, how I prefer you can put a text or call or whatever. Um, so they know how to get ahold of you. If I'm a spouse though, um, I can still just go, I can find, um, my, my spouse's organization and I can basically request to join as a, as an external person.

[00:28:00] Nik: Mm-hmm. And then, uh, you can, it's kind of, I. Detailed, but an organization can have verified or validated roles, right. For external people. So for a spouse, they probably wanna know that that person is actually a spouse. Yeah. That it's not nick up in Canada saying that there's a spouse of someone in, in, uh, you know, California or something.

[00:28:19] Nik: Yeah, yeah. So they can, they can tick off a box that that person has to be validated before they're let in. And there's a process for that. But you can also. Because it's, it's the worldwide web, it's the app store. Anyone could download and they could just kind of be an external follower of your group. So they're not gonna see things that internal people would see.

[00:28:36] Nik: They'll just see kind of stuff that you would have on your website or, you know, just some more like resources type of stuff or Exactly, yeah. And stuff that, stuff that you've chosen, uh, in your system and said, this is okay for external people to see. We would put this, okay. On our website, or we would post this on, you know, a flyer somewhere.

[00:28:56] Nik: So there are different ways to get in now in terms of like how we get paid and how it works. An organization signs up and they add their members to it, and then the external users are, are no cost and we want to accommodate them as well. Our goal eventually is to just have anyone download, create their own kind of peer team.

[00:29:12] Nik: And you know, it could be a mom's group that uses it with each other. It could be, you know, a church group. It could be, we have a lot of different groups that are really excited about the possibility that the platform provides. Obviously we started with first responders. We, we know that this group is the one that basically is the best already set up to use it, but there are a lot of other opportunities for it to really help folks as well.

[00:29:34] Nik: And that's, that's kind of. Where our horizon, where our, our sites are set, uh, in the future to try and equip a lot of different groups with this. 

[00:29:43] Jerry: Yeah, that sounds awesome. Right? I mean, there's peer com peer support is, is peer support, right? No matter what organization you work for, um, whether it's in the first responder world or Yeah. Like a mom's group or, or whatever. Yeah. Which is, that's awesome. 

[00:29:57] Nik: Yeah, exactly. So like, and we don't really, we don't advertise to other groups or something, but we have, we have a school board using it. We have a hospital, we have different groups actually that have already started using it and we kind of treat them as, as kind of pilot groups cuz you know, we're, we're not sure.

[00:30:10] Nik: They're kind of first, um, in there. But yeah, we have. Community groups using it. It's been really neat to see, um, because it is, as I mentioned, we stay outta the training, we stay outta the conversation. It's just the platform to facilitate the connections and give those reminders and give those those checks, uh, check-ins to people.

[00:30:27] Nik: So, so it is really, um, exciting about the potential there. 

[00:30:31] Jerry: Yeah, and this can be downloaded Android or uh, iOS. 

[00:30:36] Nik: Yeah, it was really important for us. Well, basically nowadays it's gotta be for everything, right? So there is a separate I iOS app. There is a separate Android app, but there is also a domain. And so if someone, you know, if someone is struggling and it's two in the morning, we don't really want them to have to go through the process of finding in the app store, downloading.

[00:30:54] Nik: There's also just you grab your kid's tablet that's sitting beside you on the couch and go to the domain, same kind of thing. So it is kind of universally accessible on any device. 

[00:31:03] Jerry: Oh, that's very cool. That that's, that's a really good feature. I mean that's cuz she, that's a great point. If I'm in crisis mm-hmm. I'm probably gonna have a difficult time trying to find that app. Potentially. 

[00:31:16] Nik: Yeah, potentially. Yeah. And so obviously we wanna make it accessible as possible, um, because we never know how, how someone's gonna first encounter it, right? And, and what their, their kind of frame of mind is at that point. So, uh, lots of different ways to onboard to get someone actually into the system.

[00:31:31] Nik: Lots of ways to access it, trying to cover all the bases there.

[00:31:34] Jerry: Yeah. Nick, what other great things and or tools about this app that people should know about? 

[00:31:41] Nik: Well, I kind of mentioned it a bit, but pro, where we've put a little bit of focus lately, and we've actually hired someone now full-time to kind of look at this area is the, the contributor library, I guess you could call it.

[00:31:52] Nik: It's kind of services slash library. And so what we're doing now is in the past, um, if you had a list of resources at your department, Generally the wellness person or the peer support coordinator, they would kind of create this list. Um mm-hmm. And so here's, here's five clinicians in our area. Here's a treatment center phone number, here's our e a p number.

[00:32:13] Nik: They have to monitor that, right? Yeah. And so we, early on, actually, we heard a story from one group where someone actually finally reached out and they had changed the e a p provider last year. Oh. But they never updated the bulletin board. So they got a dial tone and they're like, oh, great. Yeah. Right.

[00:32:28] Nik: Yeah. Finally, finally took the step to reach out and it's not even available now. I, I'm extra frustrated. So what, um, kind of version three and what we're doing now is the service providers themselves, they are creating their own profiles and they're responsible for keeping them updated. So if you're a peer or a wellness coordinator in an organization, you can kind of browse in the backend, this shared space, and you could look up, let's say treatment center in Florida.

[00:32:54] Nik: And so you could see the ones that fit that, and you can import that into your resource library knowing that in six months, if they've changed their website, their phone number, their hours, their specialty, whatever, they are the ones that have to keep that updated. And it's gonna automatically update for you.

[00:33:10] Nik: So your members are always getting, it's, it's a very, it's not static. It's a very active dynamic database. Because we've also heard, and up in Canada, we know stories of, um, people spending tons of money to build a really great resource library database to a big scan nationally. Right. But who knows in six months or a year or two years, even if that is still up to date maintained.

[00:33:33] Nik: Sure. It just is so, Costly to keep that maintained from a centralized place. So we're the service providers want to provide their service, so let them, uh, keep it up to date. So we're doing things like kind of, um, you know, every few months they'll get an email making them confirm that the information's still accurate or it'll be temporarily removed, uh, or have a note on it.

[00:33:56] Nik: So really trying to build that side of it so that a coordinator can rest easy knowing everything's up to date. If it's not, then it's not gonna be in there. Yes. Um, so, so we have a person now that's reaching out to these service provider groups, treatment centers, trainers, resiliency coaches, getting them in there, self-maintaining, really nice active database for that.

[00:34:17] Jerry: Yeah. As a, as a peer support coordinator, I'd be like, woo. Like that's off my plate. Like Yeah, exactly. To manage that. Cuz that is a lot to manage compared to, I mean, well with everything else that's, that's going on, you know, it's just one more thing. 

[00:34:32] Nik: Yeah. Exactly. We, we tend to, oftentimes when I or we meet with a new group, it is often the peer support coordinator that we kind of meet first.

[00:34:40] Nik: They, they hear about us, they see it as, as set at a conference or word of mouth is actually big, uh, in that community of course. So when they see the system, they get the demo, they ask their questions, they're generally sold because it is very purpose-built for that position. Yeah, it kind of really reduces the administrative tasks.

[00:34:58] Nik: Make sure people are reached out to, proactively checked in on, so they are, they're sold from the get-go. And then it's more just a, a matter of getting it into hands, going through the legal, the it, the, the procurement process. Right. But peer support coordinators, because it was built, it. Initially for that role, uh, built for everyone, built for the frontline, built for administration, but really purpose-built for a peer support coordinator.

[00:35:23] Nik: Generally, they really like what they see kind of off the bat, and then they have great ideas once they start using it. 

[00:35:29] Jerry: Yeah, I bet. I bet I could just, I can imagine. Cause I know how, how much burden is placed on a coordinator. Right. And allowing them to like free up their time to do other things. Then this is.

[00:35:43] Jerry: Like other than like micromanaging, right? Of all the different tasks and things that have to be done as a peer support coordinator, like this kind of frees you up to do the other bigger projects you want to do. 

[00:35:53] Nik: Exactly. So you can look at, so, so one thing, so let's say you're my peer support and I push my button, you commit to me to calling me, and we have our conversation.

[00:36:03] Nik: You're gonna be prompted. You know, prompted is the nice way you're gonna be nagged by the system to fill out the connection form to, to prove that you met with me. Now, that connection form, each group can customize what is on there and it's also de-identified. So when you hit submit, it strips the person's name, it just goes into your total report for your whole organization.

[00:36:22] Nik: Oh yeah. So now you as a coordinator, you can, you can with one button, export that report and have a look. There's no names on it, of course, but you can see. Okay. The number one reason peer support's connected with people was because of cumulative stress, or was because of personal or substance or whatever.

[00:36:38] Nik: Yeah. Um, so now you as the coordinator, you, you've, you've created that report in a matter of seconds. Your peer supports, you're not nagging them at the end of the month or whatever. Hey, Jimmy, with anyone you know, anything I should know about, it's all getting put in there because the system's doing the agging for you.

[00:36:55] Nik: And now you can look and say, Hey, chief, or hey group, we need, uh, more resources in this area. This is the number one reason or the number one thing that people are dealing with here. And so you, you're able to be a little bit more big picture and still be able to talk to more people because your, your head's not buried in your spreadsheets trying to keep track of things. So 

[00:37:12] Jerry: yeah, I I love that you can use it as, you know, for the big picture things. 

[00:37:16] Nik: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So, so that's been, um, pretty neat to see too. And even just the, the. The questions and the potential responses, like the, the check boxes that groups have on their connection form is really neat to see too. Usually when we onboard a new group, we say, A, do you have a form you're already using or any kind of metrics you're trying to gather?

[00:37:37] Nik: And then B, do you wanna see what other people are using? Because I get some really good ideas. Right. And so I think almost all of our groups would have a follow up section cuz you can do if then statements. So if you click one option more, more, um mm-hmm Options come. I think all of our groups, except maybe one or two have a follow up where if we're talking and you say, Hey Nick, thanks for, thanks for talking.

[00:37:57] Nik: Do you mind if I check in with you in a couple weeks? You can hit. Yes, under follow up type in 14 days, submit the form. Now in 14 days you get a notification, you have a scheduled follow up. You go in, you see that as me. You do the process again. So for the peers, like you don't have to wake up a month later saying, I was supposed to call someone.

[00:38:16] Nik: I hope they're doing okay. I forget. Or like calendar notices and stuff like that. Yeah, it's just gonna prompt you. And then you as the coordinator are gonna see, hey, my peers did 58 follow-ups last year. Hey, we did this.

[00:38:31] Nik: So just a really cool way to, um, yeah. To allow that coordinator to build a program and not get so buried in kinda the burden of just running it. 

[00:38:38] Jerry: Right. Right. So I have to ask right at the, like, what, how much does this cost or what's it costing? The department? 

[00:38:45] Nik: It, it's very dependent on the size of the department.

[00:38:48] Nik: It's per user per year. Um, typically we start at $40 and then it tiers way down. Um, As the group gets bigger, so we never kind of explode, you know, into the stratosphere with a really, cuz we have groups that have thousands and thousands of, um, members of employees. Mm-hmm. So it really does kind of remain reasonable for each group.

[00:39:07] Nik: And obviously we're doing our best to make sure it's reasonable. Sure. But the one thing that's different and, and we're pretty, pretty in line with other options in the space. We know kind of where everyone is. So we're, we're pretty good in that sense. But the difference that, um, It's kind of important to note is that we have like a full team of engineers daily working on this.

[00:39:28] Nik: It's a very, it's a system, not kind of a website, right? Uh, yeah. Yeah. And so there's a lot of moving parts. We're doing some integrations with dispatch and stuff now so that we can automatically, um, trigger people to get connected with if they go to a call of a certain severity. So it's definitely more than just like a.

[00:39:46] Nik: Here you go. Here's your, your website wrapped in an app with resources on it. It's got a lot of moving parts and a lot of reports. People, you know, selecting their own different preferences within there. So it's more on the system side than just a one-off, build me a website side. Right, right. 

[00:40:04] Jerry: So is that $40 a year or roughly like for the, the low end level, or is it a month?

[00:40:11] Nik: Yeah. Per year. Yeah, per year. Okay. So yeah, so that's per year. And it's just for the employee base. So we kind of say, Hey, how many people work here? A hundred people. Okay. That's what we quote for. And then the external, the family, the retirees, anyone like that is no cost. So it's just, it, it tends to be a quite a small amount for small groups and a reasonable amount for big groups.

[00:40:31] Nik: Uh, yeah. Most groups find that it's, that's in line with what they're expecting.

[00:40:35] Jerry: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Where can people find you, Nick? Like where can people get more information about the app? I mean, you know, some, maybe some tips to find it in the app store too. 

[00:40:47] Nik: Yeah, so, so it's called Peer Connect one word.

[00:40:49] Nik: Um, but the best way probably is if you're a peer support coordinator or you're kind of involved in wellness or your peer team at your, your organization. Uh, the website is first response, mh as in mental health.com. So first response, mh.com. You can read about it. There's some, some videos and things like that, but there is also a contact form and that you can book directly into a calendar.

[00:41:12] Nik: Um, my calendar, uh, and some of our other folks, um, to get a demo. We'll talk about when we meet with a group, we really take the first part of that meeting to understand where they're coming from, how they're structured. Um, cuz maybe it's not a good fit at the start. Maybe they wanna move into being more proactive.

[00:41:29] Nik: Um, but we need to hear that. We need to understand how they are structured, how they wanna be, what they kind of wanna move into. And then we'll kind of do a demo and, and explain how the system, it's quite customizable, um, but explain how it would work in their specific scenario. And you can't really get that off a website or like watching a video.

[00:41:49] Nik: It does have to be a conversation because we wanna know. How many peers you have, like what's your ratio? If you have two peer supports for 2000 people, it's gonna be a different look than if you have 20 for 200. You can be more proactive, you can do different things, right? And not one is not worse than the other.

[00:42:03] Nik: It's just how are you structured and how are you expecting to be structured over the years. Then we can kind of explain how it would work for your group specifically. Um, some groups are more peer support focused, some are more, we just want a really good resource bank for people to look. Um, We did build, um, for a statewide group.

[00:42:21] Nik: We built an anonymous kind of caller feature, um, where people don't have to be connected. They can come into the system, um, just anonymously and request contact from the peer team. Um, so that's now an option for everyone. Maybe they're running a program that's more a anonymized, we can, we can do that as well.

[00:42:37] Nik: So we need to know kind of what works for them. Then we can present how this would fit in there. 

[00:42:43] Jerry: Yeah, that's great that it's super customizable. Yeah, there's so many different schools of thought. I mean, from East Coast to West Coast up and down, there's different trainers, there's different models. So we think at this point, like that, we've kind of come across, you know, in, in hundreds of interviews of us interviewing those, those coordinators pretty much have, have come to understand most strategies and most ways that groups are, are set up.

[00:43:07] Jerry: And it does accommodate everything we've found so far. So just how we set it up for them. Yeah. Are you on 

[00:43:14] Jerry: social media anywhere that people can follow the app and maybe some of the things they're doing? 

[00:43:18] Nik: Yeah, we're probably most active on, um, LinkedIn and Instagram. I would say. Uh, they can follow us there at first Response.

[00:43:27] Nik: Mh I think there's an underscore somewhere. And, and Caitlin, our marketing person's gonna get mad at me for not knowing exactly where, but you should be able to find it. Or just Google Peer Connect or, or first response mental health. Um, there's links on our website too, so yeah, they put some, put some good stuff up there as well.

[00:43:41] Jerry: I know those little underlining or underscores or whatever you wanna call 'em, they popping up everywhere for everything. 

[00:43:46] Nik: I know you need them, but don't ask me where it is in the process. 

[00:43:51] Jerry: Sorry. I gotcha. Nick, it's been a pleasure talking with you. It's been awesome to talk about this app that sounds like it's, um, well it is, right?

[00:44:01] Jerry: It's really connecting people and changing lives, right? That. That's a big deal in this day and age with this mental health, I would say global crisis, right? Um, I had a daughter in Africa, in rural Africa, um, teaching mental health to kids that just barely could even, were going to school and were very poor and stuff like that.

[00:44:22] Jerry: So it's agl It really is global issue right now. It is. 

[00:44:28] Nik: Yeah. And so that's where, that's where our sites are set. Um, the first responder, obviously first, first near and dear to our hearts, but we can see how this could potentially have a lot of implications and a lot of use in other. Other, other groups, other scenarios.

[00:44:41] Nik: So, um, yeah, we're, we're talking to a group that helps people stop smoking and has peer supports for that. Like, it's really neat to see, um, when people get kind of catch on and catch wind of it, they say, okay, that, that works great for the police fire corrections e m s. Yeah. But I think that would work for us too.

[00:44:58] Nik: And so that's kind of where we're, we're excited to learn more about that space as well. 

[00:45:03] Jerry: Yeah. 

[00:45:03] Jerry: Yeah. I wish you the best of luck in uh, making this app grow, um, worldwide in connecting people, which is right. We often feel so alone in the world cuz it's so big in a lot of ways. And, you 

[00:45:16] Jerry: know, the app can bring us together. 

[00:45:18] Nik: For sure. Well, thanks for having me. It was a, it was a great time. 

[00:45:21] Jerry: Yeah. Thanks again, Nick. 

[00:45:22] Jerry: Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcast. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our host, Jerry Dean Lund. Through the Instagram handles at Jerry Fire and Fuel, or at Enduring the Badge podcast.

[00:45:44] Jerry: Also by visiting the show's website, enduring the badge podcast.com for additional methods of contact and up to date information regarding the show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show. So we represent films of our host and the current episodes guest.