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Ocean City, MD First Responder Mental Health and Wellness Conference

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Event description

Presented by 1st Responder Conferences in Partnership with First H.E.L.P. and ICISF

Co-hosted by the Worcester County Sheriff's Office and Behind the Line, Inc.

Endorsed by Ocean City Emergency Services, Ocean City Fire Department, Ocean City Police Department, Ocean City FOP Lodge #10, Worcester FOP Lodge #50, the Maryland Fire Chief's Association and the Maryland Institute for EMS Systems.

Venue: Ocean City Fontainebleau Resort, 10100 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City, MD. 21842

This training is for all 1st responders, police, fire, military/veterans, corrections, dispatchers, chaplains, retired 1st responders, spouses, professional staff, clinicians, and all who work in the public safety field.

1st Responder Conferences presents a multi-faceted two-day seminar and networking event for improving the mental health and wellness of our first responders. By discussing the real 21st Century issues that are consistently facing our first responders and their families, our conference will provide awareness, resources and action items to combat PTSD/PTSI, depression, suicide, addiction, stress, and overall mental health.

1st Responder Conferences proudly introduces a line-up of credible nationally recognized speakers who will address matters that impact the personal and professional lives of first responders and their family members through dynamic and engaging presentations for the entire first responder community. This two-day seminar is unique in that your spouses or significant others who support you are invited to come learn with you.

With a progressive and forward message of optimism and sustainability, 1st Responder Conferences goal is pushing past traditional silence and bringing first responder wellness to our Everyday Heroes.

Register now, seating is limited.

Speakers and Topics

"Addiction and Where We Are With Mental Health"- Eric Olson, Peer Support Team Coordinator, Ocean City Fire Department- This presentation is a personal story of addiction and journey in recovery.  Eric will discuss barriers to treatment and lingering stigma concerning mental health among first responders.  He will be sharing strategies the OCFD has employed through health and wellness initiatives and discuss changing the culture of how first responders view mental health to address our unique needs and ultimately boost resilience.. Eric is a FF/PM with the Ocean City Fire Department. He serves as their peer support team coordinator. Eric received a BA in psychology from Towson University in 2000 and has experience working in the mental health field.   He will be soon completing a masters degree in social work.  Eric is now grateful to be able to marry my love of being a first responder with my passion for mental health. Eric is in recovery and has been sober now for five and a half years. With so much being discussed about trauma he thinks it is important to revisit the topic of addiction and help break stigma by saying it's ok to say 'I'm an alcoholic and I'm in recovery.'

“Building Financial Strength in First Responder Families"- (Ret. Sgt.) Nicholas Daugherty, FinancialCop
- Building Financial Strength in First Responder families is the premier financial wellness class designed for first responders, taught by first responders. We will cover the importance of financial wellness for your personal and professional lives. Topics include budgeting, how to avoid debt and pay off debt, the importance of will & estate planning, and how to build a plan to begin to win with money. Taught by instructors that have the heart of teachers to over thousands of first responders from over 2,000 agencies nationwide. Nick Daugherty began his career with the Grand Prairie Police Department (GPPD) in 2003 before semi-retiring in 2017 as a Sergeant. He continues to serve as reserve officer for Grand Prairie PD. Nick operates FinancialCop, the largest financial wellness training provider for first responders nationally as well as providing comprehensive fiduciary only financial planning for first responders. FinancialCops have coached hundreds of first responder families through almost every type of financial crisis and scenario possible. He also works with several first responder nonprofit organizations, focusing on financial wellness for those suffering from PTSD and suicidal thoughts.

"Calming stormy yoga quieted my storm within"- Vance Row, Ocean City Emergency Services- In this presentation, Lance will discuss the stressors that affected him in his police career and the negative issues that occurred as a result. Lance will share the tool that helped him, Yoga and the benefits it provided.  Additionally, he will talk about his path to becoming a Yoga Teacher and the training he's received since. In closing, Vance will discuss exactly why he wants to teach First Responders and the benefits he believes they receive from this beneficial tool.  Originally from Baltimore, MD…Vance moved to Ocean City, MD after he graduated from West Chester University of PA. Vance worked for the Ocean City Police Department for more than 20 years and has recently been moved over to work in Ocean City Emergency Services. Through some challenging personal and professional times, Vance found the practice of yoga keeping him calm and grounded. Vance then became a Yoga Teacher in 2021 and has taken additional courses with regards to working with First Responder and Military Communities. Currently, Vance teaches weekly studio classes as well as monthly First Responder Classes.

"Bridging The Gap: Mitigating The Stress In First Responder Relationships"- Noel Meador, Stronger Families President & CEO, and Tim Sears, Director of First Responders for Stronger Families- Stress on the job is a normal part of every First Responder life. While not everyone who is a First Responder will experience PTSD, many of those who do, don’t have the tools to deal with this stress, and are vulnerable to the breakdown of their most important relationships and ultimately their mental health. Bridging the gap between how to manage stress on the job and using effective tools to communicate with loved ones is essential for the life of a First Responder. In this session we will be covering how to…

  • Understand the barriers to communication that most First Responders deal with in their relationship
  • Learn from the spouse of a First Responder and how they deal with PTSD in their relationship
  • Listen with empathy with the sole intent of understanding what your partner or spouse is feeling

Discussing difficult topics in any relationship using the Empathetic Communication framework that is proven to create a safe environment to share.  Noel Meador serves as President & CEO for Stronger Families based in Seattle, Washington. In this role, he is dedicated to strengthening families and marriages, ultimately affecting the community at large. Noel is the co-author of the Oxygen for Your Relationship seminar, which provides couples with tools and resources that help them promote authenticity and renewed vitality in their relationship. Over the past 5 years, 30,000 couples have gone through OXYGEN program and 1,100 + facilitators have been certified to teach the program. Noel received his Master’s Degree in Education and is trained in many relationship enrichment and counseling tools and is part of the John Maxwell Leadership Team. Noel lives in Dallas, TX with his wife, Karissa and four children, Drew, Noah, Myles and Kaylea.  Tim Sears joins Stronger Families with 45+ years in the fire service, having served in 4 different fire departments. Tim was actively involved in water rescue, tillered ladder trucks, ops, safety committee, fire investigator, hazmat, PEER support, board member on KFFBA Benevolent Fund and active in his IAFF Union Local 2545. Tim retired in 2021 from the Kirkland Fire Department in Washington State with many department accommodations for his 30 years of service.

“Responders: Last Call”- Katharine Pope, Forensics Found- “I LOVE THE JOB BUT IT DOESN’T LOVE ME BACK…” “I’M HAVING TROUBLE CONNECTING AT HOME AND WORK ISN’T FUN ANYMORE” “I HAVE EVERYTHING BUT I FEEL LIKE SOMETHING IS STILL MISSING” I used to complain about my job all the time, even though I identified as a death investigator first and a mom and wife second. I was thriving at work but barely surviving in reality. When I finally stopped drinking alcohol, the dominos fell and I was able to reconnect with my family, myself, and my passion for the job. By putting down the weapons of blame and shame and learning the science around alcohol use disorder, I am happily alcohol free. I now have a toolbox to help me stay focused on a positive mindset while still getting my job done. This presentation will help responders get curious about their own habits, take responsibility for their mindset, and reconnect. I will provide some specific tactics for being present, planting seeds for change, and turning anxiety into anticipation.  Kat’s experience includes working as a Crime Scene Specialist for the Austin Police Department, a WWII casualty analyst for the Department of Defense Missing/POW Personnel Office, and a Forensic Investigator in Texas, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware medical examiners’ offices. She now works for a federal agency on the missing and unidentified persons crisis. She has been happily alcohol free since February 2021! Kat lives with her husband and two kids in Salisbury MD. She is the daughter of a paramedic/firefighter and ER nurse (turned school nurse). She is the sister of a US Army veteran (retired) working as a medical librarian. She is the wife of a teacher. “I believe that public service is a calling. I want to help our fields become more accessible for students and professionals so we can do the job to the best of our ability.

“Duty to Intervene & First Responder Suicide - How Duty to Intervene Policies Can Force Us to Help Ourselves”- Major Kevin L. Jones, Deputy Chief of Department of Safety & Homeland Security, Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement- The Duty to Intervene is an "in vogue" topic in our profession with related policies primarily intended to prevent misconduct and excessive force. However, a crucial part of a Duty to Intervene policy is intervention when a first responder exhibits signs of dealing with a personal crisis - something we all experience. This presentation covers sample Duty to Intervene policy language covering this area, and emphasizes how mental health struggles must also be considered. I speak to how I was first exposed to a LEO friend's suicide as a young, naïve and arrogant officer and how it changed me. We will discuss how to crush the mental health crisis stigma starting with our new first responder trainees/recruits. I profile four police officer friends who committed suicide, tell their stories in detail, and show how a simple gesture or intervention by a friend or colleague could have saved their life.

“Creating the Ripple Effect To Safeguard Families and Coworkers When a Line of Duty Death Occurs”-  Heather Brown, PhD. co-founder of Behind the Lines, Inc., and Bethann McIntosh, Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialist, Journey of the Heart- This presentation will be coming from multiple points of view. Bethann will give insight from her experiences on ways to respond to the spouse and children as well as what the spouse may be experiencing. Working with officers more frequently through peer support, Heather will touch on healthy ways to process the incident, preparation for the funeral, and support for feelings and emotions that may come up after the funeral,( ie.survivors guilt).  Together Heather and Bethann will talk about ways to create and activate support for critical incidence. Heather Brown, PhD., CTP, CFRA, is a Registered Psychology Associate under the supervision of Dr. Samantha Scott.  She received her Bachelor of Social Work from Salisbury University, her Master of Science from Capella University and has completed her PhD in Forensic Psychology at Walden University.  Dr. Brown has had many years of experience working with individuals and agencies to create and implement programs and interventions designed to help people in crisis.  For the past three years, Dr. Brown has focused her attention on the resiliency and wellness of our first responders and their families.  To better help them heal and grow from different traumas, Dr. Brown and other local first responders created the non-profit Behind the Line, Inc. 
Bethann McIntosh is a Grief Recovery Specialist and the owner of Journey of the Heart, LLC. Bethann works one on one with clients through the  many different losses we experience throughout our lives. Bethann is the widow of Paramedic Daniel McIntosh who died in the Line of Duty in March 2010.  She  has been working with First Responders and their families to learn the healthy ways to move through traumatic events. She was a key contributor to the passing of the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvements Act of 2012, expanding the benefit coverage for all First Responders.

"Critical Incident Post Traumatic Growth for 1st Responders"- Officer George Mussini, Baltimore County Police Department- From the 911 call taker, to the Emergency room or morgue, critical incidents can affect us all but we don't have to become vicarious victims of trauma. Learn how to identify, address, and harness post traumatic stress and turn it into post traumatic growth!  Police officer George Mussini has over 30 years of experience as an active police officer and former firefighter. George is a Medal of Honor recipient and uses his years of experience to assist in peer support and wellness roles within his agency and around the country. George served as an adjunct professor in several criminal justice topics and now serves as an instructor for two nationally recognized officer safety and wellness, and suicide awareness & prevention programs. George takes his training knowledge, experience and interactive humor to the stage to help change the direction and attitudes about trauma and growth!

“Taking Care of Your Own”- Corporal Mike Valerio, Worcester County Sheriff’s Office- There needs to be paradigm shift for mental wellness in the First Responder Community. This presentation covers the history, components, philosophy, and practice of Peer Support Programs and Peer Wellness Programs. Overcoming the stigma is one of the hardest obstacles for mental wellness in 1st Responder communities. Training peers to listen, reflect, and summarize helps minimize the stigmatic barriers in several ways. In addition to managing past stressors, peer wellness programs can build resiliency and prevent distress from future events. Mike Valerio is a Corporal with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office currently assigned to the Support Service Division in School Safety. His earlier police career began in Ocean City, where he became a Crash Investigator and Drug Recognition Expert. Mike has a strong interest and passion for the field of psychology and is nearing completion of a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. His undergraduate majors were Criminal Justice Administration and Psychology. In his time at the Sheriff’s Office, Mike has been able to use his passion for psychology and is a Negotiator and Peer Support Team member. Mike’s most important titles are Husband and Father, specifically a Girl-Dad to Isabella and Alessia.

"#ResponderReadiness – Expanding the RANGE of Resilience"- Joe Willis, US Army First Sergeant (retired) and Chief Learning Officer at First H.E.L.P.- Resilience is productive behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be developed. By expanding our individual range of resilience, we are more prepared to embrace life’s challenges, recover from setbacks and grow during periods of adversity and struggle.  Joe will share First H.E.L.P.’s RANGE of Resilience, a simple research-based set of five resilience skills.  Each skill has a variety of practices that can be used to broaden personal resilience to prepare us for a setback as well as real-time practices that can be used during a critical incident to quickly recover and stay on task.  RANGE is for everyone. The five skills fit well into an existing resilience training program or it can be used as a platform to start deliberate resilience training in your agency.  Both First Responders and their family can apply the First H.E.L.P.’s RANGE of Resilience in a way that fits their needs.  Get ready to expand your RANGE of Resilience!  Joe is a retired US Army Military Police First Sergeant who currently serves as a Training and Development Specialist for the US Navy. He is also the Chief Learning Officer at First H.E.L.P. and an Adjunct Instructor for Team One Network. Since his retirement in 2016 he also served as a Training Specialist with the Center for Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE) and as the Director of Training and Business Development at Team One Network. Prior to retiring from the Army Joe served as the Operations Sergeant Major for a Combined Arms Training Brigade, Senior Enlisted Advisor and Tactics Instructor for the Department of Military Instruction at West Point, US Military Academy Equal Opportunity Program Manager, First Sergeant for a Military Police Company, and Special Investigator for the incidents at Abu Ghraib. 

Peer Support/Wellness Panel and Q&A

Certificates of Attendance Available- All attendees will receive a certificate of attendance upon completion of the conference evaluation that can be used for self-submittal.

EMS Continuing Education Credits are approved for this conference.

Registration is $300.00 (plus Humanitix platform fees) and includes the following:
A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided on both days. The venue has limited food choices so if you have dietary restrictions or allergies, please be advised. There will be a Networking Social on March 30th from 4:00-6:00 pm @ the venue. This is a great opportunity to get to know others, ask questions and share your ideas and thoughts with other like-minded professionals. Appetizers will be provided and beverages will be available for purchase.

*You must register to attend. Seats are limited for this conference.

A limited amount of scholarships are available for those with financial hardships. Please contact Amanda at for more information.

Please note Everyone will receive a registration confirmation email from our registration platform Humanitix.  There is a possibility your agency's email security system may block those emails or send them to your junk folder.  If you do not receive a confirmation email after registration or an email two weeks prior to the conference, please contact Shawn at

Please note our 30 Day Refund Policy:
There are a lot of costs involved in organizing a conference. The reason we list our 30-day nonrefundable statement on the registration website when an attendee registers, is due to having to purchase everything in advance. We will allow registrations to be transferable, so food and other items don't go to waste. There will be no exceptions to this policy. 

*Accommodations: Conference specials/discounted hotel rates available: Group block/discounted hotel rates available: Our original room block is consumed and the hotel will not give us additional rooms. 

We have overflow rooms at the Princess Royale. Please call the reservation number: 1-800-476-9253 and just reference the check in date; group name: 1st Responders Conference and/or the block code: 23FIRSTAt the time of booking they require the first night’s rate plus taxes to guarantee the reservation and the remaining balance at check in.For a virtual tour of our property please click on the link below: 

We also have overflow rooms at the Holiday Inn (40 blocks south of Host Hotel) Ocean City, Maryland Hotel with Indoor Pool | Holiday Inn Ocean City ( call the hotel directly and identify yourself as being with the 1st Responder Conferences group to make your reservation and receive the group rate, which is $79+tax weekday. For anyone who wants to add Friday or Saturday nights, the rate will be $119+tax. 1-410-5241600Booking Link: 1st Responder Conference


Photograph/Video Disclaimer Statement

1st Responder Conferences (1RC) reserves the right to use any photograph/video taken at any event sponsored by 1RC, without the expressed written permission of those included within the photograph/video. 1RC may use the photograph/video in publications or other media material produced, used or contracted by 1RC including but not limited to: brochures, invitations, books, newspapers, magazines, television, websites, etc. No video recording by attendees permitted.

Waiver of Liability

Some of the material presented at this event may cause emotional triggers. We will have onsite assistance if needed. There will also be additional resources available if needed. This conference is not intended to provide counseling services, whether medical, psychological or of any other kind, nor to diagnose, prevent, cure or treat any disease, disorder or injury. This conference is certainly not intended to replace the advice of a physician. If you need expert advice, please consult a competent professional. This conference is only intended for “educational” use and it should only be used as a guide.


Written consent may be given by speakers, but 1st RC staff will need to be informed prior.

At registration we will have a waiver of liability and a photo release form that must be signed. If you have any questions regarding the waiver please contact us, so we can be of assistance.


Currently there are no mandated restrictions related to COVID. 

At registration we will have a waiver of liability and a photo release form that must be signed. If you have any questions regarding the waiver please contact us, so we can be of assistance.

To download a flyer please visit or contact us for flyers, basic info letters, and sponsor/industry partner/vendor forms for your organizations to share. 

Please note, sometimes we have last minute speaker changes due to unforeseen reasons.

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Refund policy

30 Day Refund Policy There are a lot of costs involved in organizing a conference (Venue, speaker fees, travel costs, hotels, catering, beverages, marketing, conference supplies, programs, lanyards, SWAG bags, etc.). The reason we list the 30-day nonrefundable statement on the registration website when an attendee registers, is due to having to purchase everything in advance. This is why we allow registrations to be transferable, so food and other items don't go to waste. There will be no exceptions to this policy.