Community News
Peer Program a Life Saver
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 17 page 21-21

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 News.

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."

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