Support team for Charleston firefighters may face change

Charleston 9 Memorial

By Eric

CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) -- It's been a big part of recovery following the loss of nine Charleston city firemen, but now the firefighter support team could face a change.

The support team has offered counseling for Charleston and other local firefighters since the tragedy five years ago. Charleston Fire Chief Karen Brack said Tuesday she's interested in making the support team more efficient.

No cuts have been made -- right now there are just conversations and concerns.

Mental health clinicians and trained Charleston firefighters started the support team five years ago. Gerald Mishoe heads the office. He's seen hundreds of firefighters seek confidential counseling.

Mishoe said he's met many whose lives have been changed for the better.

"If I could say I'd give you examples of how lives have been saved, how marriages have been saved, how careers have been saved," said Mishoe. "Our peers and clinicians have formed a formidable group of people to take care of the behavioral health needs of our firefighters and their families."

They're in the earliest stages, but talks among fire department leaders about the support team have recently included words including evolution and transition. Tuesday, Brack was clear the support center is not going anywhere.

"At this present time there's no change to that office," Brack said. "This is a process, this a long process that we will be involved in."

Brack also says there is potential for the department to "recapture money" by partnering with clinicians from the support team{}"which allows us to recoup some of those dollars to put toward physicals or wellness program, or some other program that will benefit our employees," Brack said

What that means for the future of the team remains to be seen.

For the firefighters and the office he's directed since 2007, Mishoe said he will keep working.

"I will fight for it until my last breath, I'm very thankful that thanks to the people in this city and fire department we're going to stand up together," said Mishoe. "We've had our difference and knocked heads about it, we are going to get it sorted out."

Brack also said the conversations or potential changes are not a result of budget cuts. And it could be several months before moves, if any are made.

The support program costs the city roughly $320,000 dollars a year.