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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Sept. 2, 2020

Wellness Wednesday Sneak Peek: Determining Vital Workforce Emergency Assistance

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Writer

Wellness Wednesday’s guests today include Master Chief Anthony Martinez, Command Master Chief of Sector Northern New England, Christopher James, and Ms. Leslie Cardona, who will provide guidance and a real-world example on determining when a Coast Guard member is in need of help, how to address their challenges and to which resources to connect them. The conversation will take place today from 3-4 p.m. EDT.

“Within a unit, we are more boots on the ground making sure the basic needs of a member are met until we can go forward and connect them with long-term help,” said Martinez, who is now in charge of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Shearwater, homeported in Portsmouth, VA, and crossed paths with Cardona during their time in the First District. “This is where Leslie comes in to further assist the member,” he said.

Although the need for emergency assistance can be frequent and complex, Martinez and Cardona share an example of how they worked together to provide short-term and long-term services for a member in need of suicide prevention.  

 “Without naming any names,” said Martinez. “We had a member at a previous command with multiple attempts of self-harm. We had someone keep a watch over that person while we arranged for different care options. Leslie worked her magic until long-term help could be received.” Martinez reflects on an instance where the command and Employee Assistance Program resources worked together to support a member in need.

Cardona recognizes the importance of a designated point of contact that can assist members navigating resources. “I discovered that no one ever sat [the person] down to talk with them,” she said. “We talked to them like a person. I look at the person holistically. That allowed us to understand what was going on and helped to provide the right care for [the person].”

The member later signed a release so that we could tell their story. “They really wanted to get two things out of signing that release,” explained Cardona. “He wanted to use his case as a teaching example so that people could learn to talk with people in distress and to recognize those that helped him.”  

Both Martinez and Cardona report that the member they were discussing is doing well today. They’ve moved on professionally and emotionally, finding employment outside the Coast Guard and growing their family. 

“This is a pretty good success story and is the best outcome for all involved. We were able to pool resources and impact this young person’s life and stop the patterns of destructive behaviors,” said Martinez.

Cardona added that she has been a lifelong resident of the Boston area where she serves and has in-depth knowledge of the resources available in the region.  “Every district has their own unique challenges regarding services, so what works for me may not work for other districts,” Cardona said. “Living in the community makes it easier to engage in suicide intervention when people have received proper training.” 

Cardona teaches Coast Guard members in Crisis Intervention, Stress Management (CISM) Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), as well as works with the credentialed Victim Advocates throughout the First District.

“Many of our master chiefs in the [First District] are trained. We all have a baseline we are starting from when helping our members,” she said.  

 “We can work through any of these issues as long as the lines of communications are open and there is leadership out there that definitely wants to help our people,” Martinez said. “If our people are not mentally focusing on their mission then we can’t expect them to execute. We have engaged leadership ready to help them have their readiness at their peak.”
Employee Assistance Program services include so much more than Coast Guard Support (CGSUPRT). In addition to short-term counseling, there are services for COVID-19, financial assistance and emergency suicide crisis services to name a few and can be found here.
Join the Wellness Wednesday conversation from your CG computer, personal computer or mobile device. If you wish to maintain anonymity, log out of your normal (USCG/DOD) CVR account and join as a guest. Participants can also call in to (571) 388-3904; Conference ID 453 387 852#. 

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EDITOR’S NOTE **: Other First District command master chiefs may be joining by phone. They include: First District Gold Badge Command Master Chief Tom Daniels, an ASIST Peer; First Distirct Reserve Gold Badge Master Chief Rashawn Morris, a CISM Peer and Command Master Chief Maria D’Angelo, Sector Southern New England who is also a CISM and ASIST Peer