Winters public safety agencies seek volunteers for trauma and grief support program

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The Winters Fire and Police departments are looking for volunteers for an upcoming trauma and grief support program.

Last May, Chaplain Robert Duvall and his service dog Kepi retired. Duvall created the Winters Public Safety Crises Intervention Team in 2014. Within that timeframe, Duvall logged in over 12,000 hours providing critical incident support, debriefs and death notifications.

The void left with Duvall’s retirement is being filled by a program that has been working with the Davis Police Department since 2017. The program Trauma And Grief Support (TAGS) was developed by Catherine Bernstein. Although Bernstein is a chaplain, she said she built TAGS to be a secular program based on different models to assist police, fire and coroners.

The Winters TAGS program is forming and seeking volunteers. Applicants will undergo a background check, must be of good moral character and able to respond when called out.

Winters Police Chief John P. Miller told the council, “there are still some legalities to work out with the city attorney, especially in regards to covering any of the volunteers. Then there will be training. Catherine has just been fantastic to work with — very passionate about this subject.”

Winters Fire Chief Brad L. Lopez said, “We have experienced the value of these types of programs in our community by providing an extended level of service that offers assistance of compassion or resources for families in need. I am excited in working with Chief Miller to help bring this program into our community and for our first responders.”

Bernstein gave a presentation to the Winters City Council at their July 6 meeting. She said their primary objective is to provide support to fire and police responders by assisting on scene and with secondary victims and witnesses experiencing grief and trauma. TAGS volunteers are not in the chain of command and are dispatched only when their assistance is requested.

Deanne Machado, deputy director of police services for the City of Davis, said in an email, “I cannot speak more highly of the TAGS program. We are so grateful for their volunteerism.”

Machado said both police personnel and community members benefit from TAGS. With the assistance of TAGS, Machado said police can clear calls more quickly, police and community members have access to a team of individuals to assist during times of high stress and tragedy and TAGS members can assist in connecting them with appropriate resources.

Davis Deputy Chief of Police Paul Doroshov told the Express, “the TAGS program has been great” and that TAGS was a great asset in the aftermath of the murder of Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona.

TAGS volunteers offer comfort through presence, contacting and enlisting victims’ personal support systems, suggesting referrals to resources and performing or assisting with death notifications. The types of calls include deaths in traffic accidents, homicides, suicides, drownings and discovery of decedents by natural causes. TAGS members frequently will remain after a horrific incident to help survivors and witnesses.

Volunteers will receive training in psychological first-aid, critical incident stress, mandatory reporting, dealing with grief, maintaining scene integrity, privacy and ethics. Shirts, jackets and personal protective equipment will be provided, but volunteers will utilize their personal vehicles.

Individuals interested in volunteering for the Winters TAGS program should contact the TAGS Coordinator Catherine Bernstein at 530-747-5473 for more information. Bilingual individuals are encouraged to apply. Bernstein said volunteers should have a sense of service and be comfortable around grief and death.

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