The 2nd Alarm Project is a collaboration of local university faculty and staff, community partners, and first responder organizations from our area. The leads for the 2nd Alarm project are with Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee and the University of West Florida (UWF) in Pensacola. Our team is comprised of clinicians and researchers with decades of experience working in trauma, behavioral health service delivery, and with first responder populations. Our partners include active first responder organizations, agencies who serve first responders, as well as first responders themselves and their family members.
Dr. O’Dare is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management with the Institute of Public Health at Florida A&M University. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Work from Florida State University, where she also earned both Master of Social Work (MSW) and Master in Public Administration (MPA) degrees. She has worked in various roles with the Florida Legislature, Department of Health (DOH), Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), as well as with several state and national University systems. She has provided overall administrative direction, strategic planning, statewide program implementation, policy development, staff supervision, and managed complex operating budgets, comprised of federal, state, grant, and trust fund dollars. Dr. O’Dare has significant experience conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and evaluating large scale quantitative, geospatial, and mixed method research projects in both academic and applied settings. Dr O’Dare is the spouse of a current professional firefighter, and is the niece of Shawn T. O’Dare, Firefighter/Paramedic killed in the Line of Duty in Miami-Dade County in 1985. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Florida’s great outdoors and waterways- from Perdido Key to Key West and everywhere in between- with her family, as well as functional fitness and weightlifting.
Dr. Joseph Herzog is Chair and Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of West Florida. He graduated with a MSW from Florida State University in 1992 and a PhD from the University of South Carolina in 2008. Dr. Herzog’s social work career began in 1992. He has worked in both public and private non-profit agencies providing clinical supervision for staff and direct services for clients. From 1998 to 2008 he worked as the clinical director at the Frasier Center, a non-profit mental health center located near Ft. Stewart. His work at the Frasier Center with service members and their families led to his dissertation research was on secondary trauma in military families. He has since written 14 journal articles, 7 book chapters, and co-authored the textbook “Social Work Practice with Military Populations” published by Pearson. At the University of West Florida he has primarily taught practice courses in the Mater of Social Work program. When not working Dr. Herzog enjoys spending time on the water sailing and fishing or in the wonderful state and national parks across the nation.
Dr. Dana R. Dillard is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work UWF. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (1998), a Master of Social Work (2001), and earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work (2019) all from the University of Georgia. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with almost 20 years of practice experience. Her background is comprised of medical social work, school social work, and non-profit program design and implementation. She has extensive history working with the fire service, burn community, and recreational burn camp programs in both the United States and Canada. Dr. Dillard was recently asked to join the psychosocial team for the International Association of Fire Fighters Foundation Burn Fund’s annual camp program in Washington, D.C. She is an active member of the American Burn Association and serves as an appointed member of the Aftercare and Reintegration Committee, as well as co-chairing the Burn Survivor and Reintegration Special Interest Group Committee and the Psychosocial Special Interest Group Committee. Dana also served on the board of the International Association of Burn Camps for 8 years and chaired the board her final 2 years. She recently moved to Florida from Georgia and is enjoying living so close to the beach and entertaining friends/family when they come to visit. As a triple alumna of the University of Georgia, she is Bulldog fan through and through with football season being one of her favorite times of year.
Dr. Robert J. Rotunda is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor in the Department of Psychology and at the University of West Florida. After graduating with honors from the State University of New York at Albany in 1986, he served as a team member on a novel mobile psychiatric crisis team that often worked with first responders in the community. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical/Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina in 1993, and completed a clinical internship at the Brockton and West Roxbury Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a training affiliate of Harvard Medical School (HMS). While there he received training in the assessment and treatment of substance use disorders and PTSD, and then completed postdoctoral clinical and research training at the Harvard Families and Addiction Program and the Counseling for Alcoholics' Marriages Project (CALM). His research and clinical interests are in the areas of substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors, PTSD, trauma and behavioral health responses to disasters, and couple and family functioning. As a clinician and behavioral health responder, he was a member of an innovative statewide behavioral health response team (Florida Crisis Consortium, Regional Disaster Behavioral Health Assessment Teams) that was developed to support ESF-8 (Medical) in the event of a natural, technological, or terror crisis. In this capacity, he led a team of four disaster behavioral health (DBH) responders in a local week-long deployment to assist employees of the Escambia County Health Department as they adjusted to the loss of their primary workplace after 2014 NWFL floods. He first responded to hurricanes as team member in a school based response to hurricane Hugo (SC, 1989), and has volunteered as a Disaster Mental Health Consultant for the Red Cross following Panhandle hurricanes Ivan, Dennis, and Michael, as well as the 2019 NAS Pensacola shooting. He enjoys eating, spending time with his daughter, hiking, watching sports, and playing softball and golf.
Fran T. Close, Ph.D., is full Professor of Behavioral Science and Health Education in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences/Institute of Public Health at Florida A&M University (FAMU). . Dr. Close holds a doctorate degree in Pharmacology/Toxicology from Florida A&M University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Science from Florida State University. She has spent over 15 years focusing much of her research on community- based participatory research in underserved communities. As an accomplished public health researcher with a focus on community based participatory research in underserved communities, Dr. Close has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on grants totaling over $4 million during her tenure at FAMU. She has served two terms on the United Way of the Big Bend’s Board of Directors. In addition, she is the past Chair of the United Way’s Health Council, where they explored mental health in the Tallahassee community as well as dental programs for school age children in Leon and Gadsden Counties. As the chair of the United Way Health Council, she was instrumental in conducting research on “Perception of Stress and Health-related burdens among Leon County Residents”. Dr. Close is a member of the Mental Health Council of the Big Bend, where she serves as the Chair of the ENGAGE committee focusing on stigma of mental health in the African American community.
Division Chief Dilks began his career in the early 80s as a volunteer firefighter in central Florida while still in high school and decided to become a professional career firefighter. After serving his enlistment in the United States Air Force as a Security Police officer, Chief Dilks returned to central Florida to pursue his education and embark on a fire service career. He completed an AS in Fire Science and began a career with the Tallahassee Fire Department. He achieved the rank of Division Chief of Training before his retirement in 2013 after a 25.5-year career. Chief Dilks held an Adjunct Faculty position at FSU in the College of Human Sciences and served as Program Director for the Medical Response Unit through the University Health Services. As Program Director, he maintained active support of the collegiate EMS service and mentored student staff. Chief Dilks holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration, a Master’s Degree in Emergency Management, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Study from Florida State University. His mixed-methods research titled “What Fire Chiefs Think and Organizational Directors Know! A Study of the Potential Benefits of Higher Education for the Fire Service” explored the status of Florida’s current fire service personnel from firefighter to Chief Officers in the attainment of higher education and the potential benefits. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer (EFO) Program, completing his Applied Research Projects on career development, continuing education for EMT-Bs, community fire education and fire department station location and assignments. Chief Dilks has stayed active within the fire service by maintaining his fire service Instructor III certification and working towards recertification fire inspections. Chief Dilks believes in giving back to the fire service by encouraging all firefighters to obtain higher education and being the voice of change for fire service behavioral health.
Dr. Erin King is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of West Florida, and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in the state of Florida. Dr. King received her PhD from Florida State University in 2019. Her practice experience relates primarily to the intersection of trauma, mental health, and substance abuse in women, and mental health counseling with children, adolescents, and adults. Her research interests concentrate on the influence of trauma on mental health, most recently work-related trauma and its influence on child welfare worker and first responder mental health, and personal and work-related outcomes. Dr. King’s role in the 2nd Alarm Project will primarily relate to data management, statistical analysis, measurement, and evaluation. Dr. King enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and daughters.
Bree Conklin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states of both Florida and Tennessee and has served first responders, active duty military service members, and veterans in her clinical practice for nearly 8 years. She earned her Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Tennessee in 2017 and her Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of West Florida in 2011. Bree has specialized training in Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Compassionate Bereavement Care, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Circle of Security, and Play Therapy. She is an active member of the National Association of Social Workers, Association for Play Therapy, and the Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing International Association. In addition to her clinical practice, Bree serves as contributing faculty in the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee, the University of West Florida, and Walden University. Bree and her husband, Lyle, have six rescue dogs--Frog, Turtle, Moose, Bear, Bison, and Wolfie--who provide daily comedy at the house. Bree loves being outdoors and loves to run and hike--with all 6 of her dogs joining in on the adventure!
Florida A&M University
Mereya is a first year Master of Public Health (MPH) student at Florida A&M University, concentrating in Biostatistics and Epidemiology. She received her Bachelors of Science in Psychology in April of 2017 from the University of Florida. She currently has 3+ years (and counting) of mental health experience, ranging from being a mental health assistant, admissions, and discharge coordinator at a psychiatric hospital, forensic case manager, substance abuse counselor in a women's correctional facility, and behavioral therapist in a male correctional facility. Most of the mental health patients Mereya worked with had issues with trauma, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, drug dependency, child protective services involvement, PTSD, and legal issues. Her goals after attaining her MPH in May of 2021 are to apply to medical school and become a psychiatrist. Mereya loves to travel, shop, and read psychological thrillers and memoirs.
University of West Florida
Megan is a graduate research assistant for the UWF Department of Social Work, and is presently in her third semester of the MSW program. She completed a master's in education at the University of South Alabama in 2015. She is the president of the Graduate Student Social Work Organization, as well as the president of the Phi Alpha Honor Society at UWF. She is passionate about the implementation of mental health services in public school systems nationwide, and the eradication of the prison industrial complex. She enjoys camping, kayaking, and spending time with family, friends, and her two, small senior dogs, and is looking forward to assisting in the success of this project.
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We have named this program the “2nd Alarm Project” to raise awareness and convey that sometimes, the primary resources deployed to mitigate an emergency require additional supports to make an impact. The vision of this project is that no firefighter in our area will go without educational materials and access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health or substance abuse issues, and that fire department systems, including firefighters, company officers, and staff in leadership positions, are provided capacity building opportunities to ensure that the mental health care needs of men and women on the line are addressed from recruitment to retirement.
That no firefighter in the NW Florida Panhandle will face mental health stigma or go without access to evidence-based, first-responder specific behavioral health resources, and that access to these resources will support mission readiness, preserve the force, and improve the long term health of firefighters, families, and retirees.
The 2nd Alarm Project seeks to reduce barriers and increase access to evidence-based behavioral health services for firefighters in the NW Florida Panhandle by
The program consists of the following 4 primary components:
Services are available to any career or volunteer firefighter, or retiree, in the following Florida Panhandle counties: Bay, Calhoun, Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Leon, Madison, Okaloosa, Suwanee, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, or Washington. Program features and resources are made available to users through our app for easy-to-access 24/7 help.
Download the free app today to take advantage of these program offerings.
For more information on what we offer and how you can get started with these free services, click here.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide and in need of immediate attention, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.