Sgt. Lisa Pomerance has been with the New York Police Department (NYPD) for
17 years and is one of the original group of peer-support officers who began
training and working with the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance
(POPPA) when the program started in 1995.
Peer-support officers are assigned to the POPPA help line for 24-hour
shifts about three or four times a year, Pomerance told Psychiatric
Over the years, Pomerance has counseled peers dealing with marital or
relationship problems, depression, anxiety, and alcohol problems and
successfully urged many to seek professional help. One of the most frustrating
aspects of her volunteer work is an officer's refusal to get help after he or
she has been identified as needing it, Pomerance noted. But the rewards far
outweigh the challenges for her. Pomerance is part of an outreach effort to
educate NYPD employees about the program and its services and to dispel stigma
surrounding mental health problems.
Before speaking about the program at roll call in one precinct recently,
she received a moving introduction by a fellow officer: "A long time
ago, I reached out to POPPA because I was having major difficulties in my
life. The person who saved my life is standing right here," he said,
pointing to Pomerance.
"That felt absolutely wonderful," she noted. "POPPA
works, and it saves lives."