Cloquet Area Fire District Board OKs mental health training contract

Reinforcement Consulting LLC will create a tailored mental health training program for the Cloquet Area Fire District for a maximum cost of $8,000.

File: Cloquet Area Fire District
Cloquet Area Fire District Station 1.
File / Cloquet Pine Journal

CLOQUET — In support of the Cloquet Area Fire District’s goal of prioritizing employee mental health, the CAFD Board on Wednesday, Feb. 15, unanimously approved a contract for mental health training.

The fire district will work with Reinforcement Consulting, LLC in four areas at a maximum cost of $8,000, according to the contract: an initial assessment, a leadership consultation, three training blocks and emergency services. The funds will come from the district’s 2023 safety and rehab budget.

The emergency services option would be used if the fire district responded to an incident that is out of the ordinary and greatly impacts staff. CAFD Chief Jesse Buhs said he plans to utilize the first three options and keep the emergency services option in reserve should something happen that would require it.

The initial assessment will allow the consulting firm to tailor training to the CAFD and the challenges its employees are facing, Buhs said.

“Investing in this type of training and resource now can potentially help with PTSD and medical leave and some of the impacts that cost us a lot more on the back end of the situation that hopefully we can work to prevent,” he said. “The basis of our district is that we take care of our staff. We want to work on the culture and the impact to recruitment and retention, and I think this is one component that would definitely impact that.”


One training block will be held during each of the district’s three shifts, Buhs said. Furthermore, there is no limit to how many people can attend the training, so Buhs has spoken with leaders at the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office and the Cloquet Police Department about having their staff attend training blocks in the future.

Board Chair Linda Way asked about records maintenance. The contract specifies that Reinforcement Consulting will maintain its records for two years after its work with the fire district ends.

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Way expressed concern about confidential information being included in the records and asked what the firm would do with the records after two years.

Under the contract, Reinforcement Consulting would not be working one-on-one with district staff, Buhs said. Should employees need additional mental health support, they can go through the fire district’s employee assistance program, the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative, or a local mental health provider.

“There is no mental health work on an individual basis. What they’re looking for is trying to help determine the needs of the organization are and then helping tailor their leadership consultation and their educational training blocks toward our department more specifically,” Buhs said.

All board members in attendance supported the measure. St. Louis County representative Randy Willeck was the only member absent.

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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