Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader speaks at PACF event in Vienna

VIENNA W.Va, (WTAP)- Accomplished Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader spoke Friday at the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation's 56th annual meeting in Vienna.

“Every year, we recognize our business for the last year, the accomplishments of the foundation, the support that we’ve received from our donors and accomplishments in terms of volunteer achievements, but we also pick an issue that’s important to us. Substance use disorder is a big problem. It’s unlikely to be resolved in the short term and long term problems require long term resources, so we’re building a Fund for Recovery so that we can more substantially address a lot of the requests that we get for help from all different types of organizations,” says Judy Sjostedt, the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation Executive Director.

In addition to helping individuals whose lives are affected by substance abuse disorder, Fund for Recovery will also serve to help first responders and agencies dealing with related issues.

“I think that it’s key that we get rid of the stigma associated with substance use disorder. I think that is one of our biggest obstacles and I also think another obstacle that we deal with is the stigma surrounding mental health for first responders,” says Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, the keynote speaker of the event.

“2017 was the first year that I can remember that there were more firefighters and police officers that died of their own hand than in the line of duty. That is unacceptable…We are the helpers. We’re supposed to solve this problem. We feel helpless we can’t solve this problem. We’re obviously not going to admit we need mental health services because then we’d have to admit that we’re weak. And that’s not a weakness. We have to re-energize and we need to take care of our first responders as well,” she continues.

And for someone whose accomplishments range from a Netflix documentary to being the first ever female fire chief in West Virginia, to Rader, her biggest accomplishment is simple.

“Making the difference in somebody’s life and watching them turn their life around and to be clean and in long-term recovery. That’s all anybody could ever hope for. I took an oath on several different occasions to save lives and that’s what we need to do. We need to help each other,” she notes.

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