The CARES UP Model

Step Six - Pair UP

A purple pyramid highlighting the Pair UP step with the definition of the step below.

This step of the model focuses on building and strengthening peer and professional supports in-house and in your local community. 

Enhancing Peer Support:

First responders face stressful and traumatic situations on the job. It is important that they have someone to talk as a healthy way to cope with what’s on their mind, difficult experiences and/or work-related stressors. A peer support program can help make sure your organization has trained members who are ready to support their peer through a difficult situation in their personal or professional life. See below for additional information and resources on how your agency can enhance your peer support model.  

Once mental wellness trainings have begun, agencies are encouraged to review their current Peer Support Team model. Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding, and validation not found in many other professional relationships.1 Peer support workers can help by sharing their own lived experience and offering guidance. This support helps uniformed personnel to develop and meet their own goals in life. 

See below for various resources on how to build or expand a peer support program within your agency. 

Visit the links below to learn more about how other CARES UP grant agencies built their own Peer Support Models. 

In addition, see the Peer Support Tip Sheet  for more information and support on how to expand your Peer Support Model.

Building Relationships With Local Behavioral Health Providers:

By building relationships with local behavioral health professionals, your organization will be able to establish clear pathways to get your staff connected to services when needed, in a timely and efficient manner.  

It is encouraged that agencies begin to form connections with local behavioral health providers to build a comprehensive support network. It is helpful to have an existing relationship in place when staff need to use these resources. This will also ensure a smooth referral process. However, there is also more to consider.  One of the best places to start is by reaching out to your county mental health commissioner. In New York State, you can visit this website to find out who your commissioner is. The mental health commissioner has the statutory authority and responsibility for oversight and cross-system management of the local mental hygiene system to meet the needs of individuals and families affected by mental illness, substance use disorder and/or intellectual/developmental disability in their communities (  

Lessons Learned:

1.) In working with the first CARES UP grant sites, we found out that the possibilities for mental health resources and services are not always clear. If an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) existed, there was often a lack of trust and understanding on how to use it. A few sites decided to invite the EAP to talk about the program and hand out information that was easy to understand. Another site asked the EAP for mental health training, as they found out through connecting with them that this was a service they provided. 

2.) Another issue accessing mental health resources was in the stigma of seeking help. Some uniformed personnel did not wish to seek help due to perceived shame and associated stigma. There were two main factors that emerged for these grant sites: 

First, staff were worried about possible negative consequences on their job if they reached out for help. This concern was addressed through policy change, open dialogue, as well creating clear pathways to seek care without negative consequences at work.  

Second, first responders were used to being the ones to take community members to get help. They were very uncomfortable with the thought of seeking help in these places where they knew the staff. Through the results of the membership survey and conversations with leadership and in groups, grant sites improved their awareness about these concerns.  This led them to think about solutions on how to change the conversation to focus on hope and help. New resources were discovered, which included help from different providers in the areas of behavioral health, EAP, insurance carriers, union partners for telehealth, peer support teams, New York Law Enforcement Assistance Program, and other wellness apps and programs.  

Please see the resources below on how to build these connections with local providers: 

Move on to the next step in the CARES UP Model: