Keeping It 100 with Sheriff Chad Chronister

"It's OK Not To Be OK."

Episode Summary

Sheriff Chad Chronister is joined by Clara Reynolds the President and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay (Crisis Center) to discuss how it is OK not to be OK and the resources available to help us all. Clara Reynolds also shares information about a new hotline specifically for first responders. Please share this episode with a loved one, friend or coworker who could benefit from knowing they are not alone. Numbers to Save: 2-1-1: Emotional support and connections to community resources for anyone. First Responder Line: 1-866-4FL-HERO (1-866-435-4376) Florida Veterans Support Line: 1-844-MyFLVet (1-844-693-5838) Websites: Crisis Center of Tampa Bay: https://www.crisiscenter.com/ First Responder Line: http://www.lasttoask.com/ Florida Veterans Support Line: https://www.myflvet.com/

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1: Attention Hillsborough County, Unit 100 is now present. Group: I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support, protect, and defend. Speaker 1: I repeat, Unit 100, your Sheriff, Chad Chronister is now here. Group: And I will well and faithfully perform the duties of deputy sheriff on which I am about to enter, so help me God. Speaker 3: And now, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office brings you Keeping It 100 with Sheriff Chad Chronister. Amanda Granit: Well, hello everyone, and welcome to this episode of Keeping It 100. I'm your host, Amanda Granit. As always, I'm beside Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. Good morning, sir. Sheriff Chad Chronister: Good morning. Hello everyone. Amanda Granit: How's it going? Coronavirus, our community is in the heat of this battle right now, but you're holding up. Sheriff Chad Chronister: That's it. A tremendous national emergency, that are not just here in the Tampa Bay area, but our nation is facing. It's such a new virus, it changes by the minute. So, trying to stay ahead, trying to keep our 4,000 employees healthy, and on top of that, trying to keep our community healthy, and still provide that level of service that we have to provide. Amanda Granit: Of course. And as we record this episode, of course, we are practicing our social distancing, and we're talking to our guest for this episode over the phone. So, join me in welcoming CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Clara Reynolds. Good morning ma'am. Clara Reynolds: Good morning everybody. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Sheriff Chad Chronister: I tell you what, I have to jump in here. I'm such a huge fan of Ms. Reynolds and everything she does. If she shows up somewhere and she sees a crazy maniac jumping and screaming up and down in support of her, you don't have to look very far, it's going to be me. Her passion and the impact, the positive impact, that her and her organization has in our community is an example to set for others. Amanda Granit: And Clara, how are you holding up during this time? Clara Reynolds: Sheriff, you're making me blush. Let me just tell you that you're just making me blush. So, thank you for that. Amanda Granit: And how are you and your family holding up during this time? Clara Reynolds: We're very good. My husband and my son, who is a junior here in Hillsborough County Schools, are at home, and I am in the office most days. We're doing really, really well, and practicing all of the things we need to do to keep everybody safe and healthy while still running, very similar to the Sheriff, an essential service in our community. Amanda Granit: Tell us a little bit more about that essential service for anyone who may not be familiar with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. What resources are available to our community? Clara Reynolds: Oh, thank you for the opportunity. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay had been a part of our community for over 40 years. Our mission is to ensure that no one in our community has to face crisis alone. Right now this COVID-19 is creating a tremendous amount of crisis for residents here of Hillsborough County. We are the community's gateway to help, hope, and healing in a crisis. It's very simple to reach us. It's a number called 2-1-1. That number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have access to all of the resources that are available to help our citizens, no matter what their crisis is. A crisis is just a life's problem that needs a solution. We're available to provide that help and assistance. Clara Reynolds: And you know, similar to what the Sheriff said, information and resources are changing almost hourly. So, we are working around the clock to make sure that we've got the most up-to-date resources available for the citizens of Hillsborough County, so that they can get the help that they need. We also provide a variety of other services, including we are the certified rape crisis center, so when one of our citizens is raped in Hillsborough County, and rather than going to an ER, they physically come to our clinic. We provide trauma counseling. Then we also partner with the City of Tampa and provide 911 emergency medical transportation, as well as transportation for individuals that are experiencing either a psychiatric or substance use emergency so that we can transport those individuals safely to facilities. All of those things, again, around this umbrella of crisis we provide at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Sheriff Chad Chronister: That's absolutely amazing. This is probably a perfect opportunity. Mrs. Reynolds, can you just talk a little bit about what some of those individual crises are? Then what are you facing the most during... I guess, what are your most calls for service or police for help during this time? Clara Reynolds: Prior to really what we were seeing with COVID-19, so let's go all the way back about four weeks, we were experiencing high numbers of calls related to individuals who are struggling with emotional and behavioral concerns. We also answer the hotline for suicide as well. We partner with the National Suicide Prevention Helpline. So, somebody calls that line in Hillsborough County, they actually come to our call center. So, it's somebody in Hillsborough County responding to a Hillsborough County resident who is in a severe crisis. We were seeing a tremendous number of those calls coming through. Clara Reynolds: Now we have seen with COVID-19 many more calls from individuals that are struggling with financial concerns. They're concerned because they have lost their job. They are concerned because their rent is coming due. They need food. All of those basic necessities. We also are seeing layered onto that, if you will, just tremendous emotional upheaval by our citizens here in Hillsborough County. They're struggling with this new normal of being at home with the Safer at Home Orders. So, having children at home that they're also having to educate, while trying to work, and do all of these things. A call that would normally take us about seven minutes to assess and get somebody the resources that they need is now taking upwards between 15 and 25 minutes to do the same amount of work. Because it takes longer to get folks to a place where they are able to really be able to communicate what they need. Sheriff Chad Chronister: I appreciate you talking about this a little more in depth because a lot of people think, "Hey, Crisis Center, if you want to commit suicide, you call there." The services that you provide, the counseling and treatment that you provide, go far beyond the borders of just suicide, from victims of sexual battery all the way up to any type of financial stress. But whatever you're struggling with, crisis is defined by each and every one of us, and we all struggle. I think it's great when you talk to Ms. Reynolds because this is where we learn that it's okay not to be okay, Amanda Granit: We hear it so much, but it really is something that rings true and is ringing true for many people right now. Just to reach out if you need that help. And again, you were saying 2-1-1 is the number that they can reach out to, right, Ms. Reynolds? Clara Reynolds: Very simple. 2-1-1. I know your reach is very far, Sheriff, so no matter where you are, if you're in Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, you can call 2-1-1, an organization like the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is going to be available to answer your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sheriff Chad Chronister: That's what we always tell people. I think that the most difficult part is having the courage to come forward and asking for help. We're trying to remove that negative stigma from our community, from our society that it's okay not to be okay. It's okay. It's okay to struggle. We all struggle. You're not abnormal because you struggle. Pick up the phone and call. That's the easy part. 2-1-1, think how simple that is. You dial three simple numbers, and whatever you're struggling with, there's going to be someone on the other line to help you. Amanda Granit: I want to take a momentClara Reynolds: Absolutely, and you said it very well. Amanda Granit: I want to take a moment also to really get to know you, Ms. Reynolds. You have a personal connection to helping those in crisis. Your team has put together a beautiful story, a beautiful piece about your mother, who really defied a lot of the odds professionally, and had some personal struggles that impacted the path of your life forever, and also the path of your career. So, we're going to take a moment and play that piece from your team. Clara Reynolds: February 16, 1986 was a Sunday. My mom had the day off, so we had this great plan to being together. She was taking me out driving because I was 15. I was about to turn 16 and get my license. It was a gorgeous day. It was really, really nice. As the evening progressed, we sat down for dinner, and my mom started having like just a ridiculous argument with my grandmother over something, at this point, I can't remember. She had been drinking, which is not unusual. She was slurring her words. She was talking about seeing things that weren't there. She was just really, really struggling. She said to me, she goes, "Well, you better check your insurance policies because I'm going to kill myself." I had heard these words before. Usually, what happened was that she would just go to sleep and nothing more would happen of it. Clara Reynolds: I heard a snap of her gun belt. When I heard that snap, it was something new and something I hadn't heard before. As I walk into her room, she was standing in her closet. There was a window directly opposite of her and I could see in the reflection through that window, she had her service revolver to her head and I heard her pull the trigger. Then I watched her just kind of fall. It was kind of like, if you could imagine a puppet, and the strings of a puppet being let go, and she just collapsed. Clara Reynolds: I ran out of the room. I called to my grandmother. Called for help. Law enforcement came. The first responders came. Because I was the one that called, because I was the one that first on the scene, they had to swab my hands to make sure I wasn't the one that pulled the trigger. I can still remember how that felt, the cold, slimy, wetness of it. That was just an unbelievable experience. At one point, I remember hearing them say they thought they had brought her back, but she ended up dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I just reflected on how much pain my mother had to been in to have left me because I could never imagine doing that to my kid. Clara Reynolds: My whole life changed as I knew it at that point. My mom was everything to me. She was my rock. Even with all of her flaws, that was my parent. That was the person who was supposed to take care of me, and I lost that. I lost that, that day. I can remember just being incredibly angry, incredibly sad. Sheriff Chad Chronister: Clara, I'm so sorry for your loss, and I can only imagine. I can't imagine what you went through that day, but I can only imagine now how your mom is smiling down at you, knowing that you have taken that struggle and pain and now turned it into a passion to help each and every individual that you come into contact with. Clara Reynolds: Thank you. Sheriff Chad Chronister: Now that I was overwhelmed with emotions for the second time, it was hard enough seeing it and witness it. I didn't know of Ms. Reynolds's story back then, so totally caught me by surprise when we were at the charity event and raising money, which yes, the Crisis Center is accepting donations. For those of you out there listening to this, you could always be that helping hand by contributing to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. You want to talk about an organization that puts your funds, your hard earned money to good use, I can't think of a better one today. Now more than ever, as so many people are struggling during this pandemic. Amanda Granit: I believe it's just so powerful to share that story because it shows that you're not coming from a clinical standpoint, or not only a clinical standpoint, you have this emotional connection, You're able to help people on a different level, and really understand the importance of having resources like the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Sheriff Chad Chronister: Well, that's why she has to be so proud. Back then there weren't resources available. It wasn't... I've been in this for 28 years. I remember seeing some horrendous things back on patrol, and throughout your career. There was no services available. What they did is instead of the 42 minutes for lunch, they said, "Well, you go and take the full hour and come on back." Like, "Okay, yeah, I'm fixed now." Amanda Granit: Those 15 minutes made a difference. Sheriff Chad Chronister: Yeah, made a huge difference. So, "Put me back in, coach," and that wasn't it. There was just no resources available. So, imagine now how Ms. Reynolds has to feel knowing that now I... Not only is there resources available, I'm the resource. Amanda Granit: Yeah. How does that feel? Clara Reynolds: It's an absolute honor. When that event happened, and I've said it publicly, it certainly did change my life in a variety of ways. But, for me, it put me on a path that I really felt that calling, for lack of a better word, to become a social worker, and to stay in this community here in Hillsborough County, where I born and raised. To be able to provide whatever I could, so that truly no one has to face a crisis of any nature alone. Coming to the Crisis Center, in July, I will have been here for five years, it was really like finding the place I was always supposed to end up. I've had a tremendous opportunity to serve in this community throughout my career, but really at the Crisis Center, it seems to make the most sense for me. Clara Reynolds: Certainly in the partnership with law enforcement, with the Sheriff's department, with Tampa police, we are working so hard to not just provide for the community, but that ought to be able to provide for our first responders because, goodness knows, you all certainly go through things every single day that most of us can't even imagine. So, to be able to be a partner, a true partner with you all has been truly an honor for me, and I think for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay as well. Sheriff Chad Chronister: The biggest obstacle we face today, as a society, is mental health. That's not just as a society, and first responders, law enforcement are not immune from that. Like I said before, there were no resources available. It was because of Clara's at the forefront of this crisis and making a difference. Having retired law enforcement officials be on the other lines because you can't sit there and talk to someone, especially in law enforcement, that is totally skeptical of everybody in the world saying, "Hey listen, I understand what you go through." She's worked through that, and launched in the fall, this past fall, this tremendous campaign that It's OK not to be OK. Encouraging our employees, fire rescue, first responders, law enforcement that if you're not okay, ask for help. There's so much help available, all you have to do is be willing to ask for it. Amanda Granit: Yeah. Sheriff, you mentioned that negative stigma. Of course, first responders, they are not immune to that negative stigma. A lot of times they feel that amplified when they're going through their own dark times. One of the things that the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has right now is the Florida Hero Line. So Clara, could you explain to us what that is? Clara Reynolds: Sure. That number is 866-4-F-L-H-E-R-O, or (866) 435-4376. It is available across the state. If anybody, any of our first responders are out there, it is a confidential line that will ring right here to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. We can provide additional resources and support. We can be a sounding board. We can be anything that that individual needs at this time. One of the things that we had a campaign and we created a campaign, and certainly the Sheriff was front and center as part of that campaign. The campaign truly was to bring attention to the community that more first responders die by suicide than in the line of duty. That was the first message we really wanted to get out to the community. Then to encourage the community to remember and embrace these amazing men and women who put themselves out there on the line every day. Clara Reynolds: The tag around this campaign was, "First to respond, last to ask for help." That's really what we've been focused on is that last piece is a trying to break down exactly what you said, Sheriff, around the stigma, the stigma of saying that you have a behavioral health issue is still rampant in across our country. We all have a job to do to work on those stigma pieces. So, we launched that line, and we launched a website lasttoask.com. All of those things were, again, to bring resources. Clara Reynolds: What we are hopeful for is that we're going to get to a place that the Sheriff alluded to, that we are going to be able to have dedicated law enforcement, first responders being able to pick up that phone. We don't have those resources right now, but we do have a line available, and we have individuals that are being trained to work specifically with our first responder community. We do have some first responders that happened to just be employees that are answering those calls, but we are looking forward to the day when we have a dedicated line for first responders just like we do for veterans. Clara Reynolds: We launched a veterans line, back a few years ago. That was really the impetus for creating this first responder line. Because exactly what you both said, first responders want to talk to other first responders about their struggles. That is our ultimate goal is to be able to get to a place where we have those first responders on the other end of that phone line. We'll keep working on that, and appreciate the support that we already received from the community, and are just so grateful to be a partner. Sheriff Chad Chronister: It's so exciting. That's what I'm saying. You think of how fast forward now, how far we've come from having no resources, to making progress, that encouraging the first responders, our military, our veterans to come forward, and now get them the help that they need. There might be someone listening now, who is struggling with something. Pick up the phone and call 2-1-1. I keep telling everyone, it's the easiest thing you'll ever do. There's no judgment, it's confidential, it's free, it doesn't cost anything. Pick up the phone and call. Help is as easy as dialing 2-1-1. Amanda Granit: I think this Florida Hero Line is really so, so important because from things that you've shared with us before, Sheriff, about how law enforcement works, and the mentality of our deputies and a lot of first responders, we have a ton of resources here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's offices as do other agencies. But sometimes people don't want to reach out to their own agency because they're afraid of perceived consequences that don't actually happen, but they're worried that they might have, you know, not get the promotion next time, or they might be viewed differently by their supervisor. So, this is so great because it's a third party. It's not connected to any of the first responding groups, fire, police, EMS, anything like that. You can really get the help you need if you're struggling. Sheriff Chad Chronister: That's what makes this resource so special. You're exactly right. There are a million reasons. This is just another reason why this is so, so spectacular. It really, it truly is. Amanda Granit: So again, that number for the Florida Hero Line is 1-8-6-6-F-L-H-E-R-0. So, make sure you write that down, text it to your friends who are first responders, keep it in your phone in case you ever come across someone who needs it. And, of course, as we've been mentioning, 2-1-1 is always a number that any of us can call to get help immediately. Clara, what's your message for the community? Any ways that they can help? During this time a lot of people are at home and wondering how they can give back in the community while we're doing this self isolating movement to try to get healthy and back to being with each other all the time. Clara Reynolds: Well, thank you for that opportunity. I mean, I would ask that the community, certainly if individuals are out in the community and they have the capacity to support us financially, crisiscenter.com will provide you with that information. But the other equally as important is that even with the amazing work that the Sheriff does in promoting work that we do, there are still so many people in our community that don't know about 2-1-1, that don't know about the Crisis Center. So, I'd love for the people in your listening audience to feel confident to become an ambassador about the services available at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Clara Reynolds: And notice that when their loved ones are struggling, their friends, their neighbors, they don't have to take that on themselves. They can just say, "Hey, I noticed that you're having a hard time. Let's call 2-1-1 together." It is those simple little things that truly can be lifesaving for individuals that are struggling with trauma, and crisis, and really those hidden injuries that nobody sees, but individuals are walking around with every day. So, those are the two biggest ways that folks that are listening to this podcast can assist us here at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Sheriff Chad Chronister: I think that's a big part of it. There's so many of us afterwards have said, "Oh, I recognized all these symptoms, and I identified with this and that, but I never did anything to help." I think Clara touched on something that's very important. You see someone struggling, you know they're struggling, you love this individual, you take care of that person. Help them get the help they need. Again, it's as easy as dialing 2-1-1. Well, Ms. Reynolds, I can tell you, I'll put my fan shoes aside, and just tell you that this community, that this Tampa Bay area, and this world's a better place to live in because of you, and I couldn't be more grateful that you call Tampa home. Clara Reynolds: Well, thank you sir. And thank you too to you, your leadership, your vision, and to every one of your over 4,000 employees who do unbelievable work every single day. It's like I said before, it is an amazing partnership, and we're so proud of the work that we do together to make our community a safer and a better place to live. Amanda Granit: Thank you again for calling in for us and being a part of this episode. Even though we're socially distancing, it's really important that we got out that message. We hope that you and your family stay safe and healthy. For everyone who's listening to us, if you would like to submit a topic that you'd like us to cover on one of the next episodes of Keeping It 100, just make sure you use that hashtag, Keeping It 100. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy until next time. Speaker 7: Thank you for listening to this edition of Keeping It 100. To keep up with team HCSO in between each episode, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at HCSOSheriff.