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Episode 95th April 2023 • The Fire Inside Her; Authenticity, Self Care, and Wisdom for Life Transitions • Diane Schroeder
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Today’s guest is unassuming and accomplished, yet her achievements are consistently in the service of others and the betterment of her community. Knowing that Time Magazine chose her in April 2018 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world helps give you faith in the true influences at work in our world.

Today you’ll hear about innovative and meaningful ways of addressing compassion fatigue and PTSD with First Responders, you’ll gain a little better understanding of the opioid epidemic and individuals suffering from substance use disorders, and learn about a TED talk and Documentary you'll definitely want to watch. You’ll also get to know Jan Rader a bit more, and she is the treasure that brings each of these other stories to life. From the experience that got her interested in helping others to the way she still serves today, she is someone you’ll be glad you got to meet.

A Native of Ironton, Ohio, Jan Rader joined the Huntington Fire Department in August of

1994. Ms. Rader is the first woman to reach the rank of Chief for a career

department in the State of West Virginia. She holds a Regents Bachelor of Arts

degree from Marshall University and an Associates Degree of Science in Nursing

from Ohio University. Jan holds many fire service certifications and is also a

Fire and EMS Instructor in the State of West Virginia. Chief Rader came to

national prominence after the release of the short documentary “Heroin(e)” by

Netflix in September of 2017. Then in April of 2018, she was chosen as one of

Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She

retired from the City of Huntington Fire Department in February of 2022 and

currently serves as the Director of the Mayor’s Council of Public Health &

Drug Control Policy. The purpose of this council is to address substance use

disorder in Huntington and the surrounding communities and to create a holistic

approach involving prevention, treatment, recovery, and law enforcement.


Connect with Jan Rader

Instagram

@blazinwv

On Twitter

@blazinwv

Ted Talk

In the opioid crisis, here's what it takes to save a life | Jan Rader

https://youtu.be/bLAw7yF0YBc

Documentary

HEROIN(E) - https://www.netflix.com/title/80192445

https://recoveryboysthefilm.com/about-heroine/


How to connect with Diane

www.thefireinsideher.com 

Diane@Thefireinsideher.com 


Instagram

@TheRealFireInHer 

LinkedIn

www.linkedin.com/in/dianeschroeder5/

Are you excited to get copy of the Self Care Audio download that Diane mentioned?

You can get that HERE –


TheFireInsideHer.com/audio

If you enjoyed this episode, take a minute and share it with someone you know who will find value in it as well. You can share directly from this platform or send them to:

https://TheFireInsideHer.com/podcast

Transcripts

Diane:

Welcome to the Fire Inside Her podcast, A safe space for

Diane:

leadership, self-care, and community.

Diane:

I'm your host Diane Schroeder, and it is my privilege to be your guide

Diane:

on the journey to authenticity.

Diane:

If you could close your eyes and think of a time when a person just walked into a

Diane:

room and their energy and their presence let you know that they were in charge.

Diane:

This is called command presence.

Diane:

As a leader, it's one of the tools in our toolboxes to let

Diane:

people know you're in charge.

Diane:

There are many ways you can introduce your command presence, and my

Diane:

favorite is just energetically having that confidence within yourself to

Diane:

let people know you're in charge.

Diane:

In the fire service command presence is important because when you're running an

Diane:

emergency scene, you need to let everyone know you are making the decisions.

Diane:

The responsibility falls to.

Diane:

You can't fake command presence.

Diane:

Either you have it or you don't.

Diane:

You can try to fake it, but it's been my experience that

Diane:

people see right through it.

Diane:

Another misconception I think that happens is when you feel that command presence is

Diane:

only reserved for very masculine energy.

Diane:

And what I've learned in the recent past is that's just not true.

Diane:

One of my favorite leaders who has an incredible command presence

Diane:

is just over five feet tall.

Diane:

The first time I saw her present on stage in 2019, I was captivated.

Diane:

She has this calming, humble presence and you know, she's in charge.

Diane:

Jan Rader is a native of Ironton, Ohio.

Diane:

She joined the Huntington Fire Department in August of 1994.

Diane:

She is the first woman to reach the rank of chief for a career department

Diane:

in the state of West Virginia.

Diane:

She holds a regents of Bachelor of Arts degree from Marshall University

Diane:

and an Associates degree of Science and nursing from Ohio University.

Diane:

Jan holds many fire service certifications and is also a fire and EMS instructor

Diane:

in the state of West Virginia.

Diane:

Jan Rader came to national prominence after the release of the short documentary

Diane:

Heroine by Netflix in September of 2017.

Diane:

Then in April of 2018, she was chosen as one of Time Magazine's list of the 100

Diane:

most influential people in the world.

Diane:

She retired from the City of Huntington Fire Department in February of 2022

Diane:

and is currently serving as the Director of the Mayor's Council of

Diane:

Public Health and Drug Control Policy.

Diane:

The purpose of this council is to address substance use disorder in Huntington and

Diane:

the surrounding communities and to create a holistic approach involving prevention,

Diane:

treatment recovery, and law enforcement.

Diane:

One of the most heartfelt conversations I had with Jan was a little over

Diane:

a year ago in San Antonio, Texas.

Diane:

We'd gone out for amazing barbecue, and when we were sitting down at the bar.

Diane:

She was just listening, and after I was done sharing with her where I was at

Diane:

in my life and my career, she looked me square in the face and said, "Do

Diane:

me a favor, Diane, just be open to whatever possibilities present for you."

Diane:

I thought that was really interesting advice.

Diane:

I've never had that advice before.

Diane:

She smiled and I said, "absolutely, Jan."

Diane:

And then that really stuck with me.

Diane:

since then I've been presented with some pretty incredible opportunities.

Diane:

And I always think back to her and her words of wisdom and her

Diane:

calm, humble command presence.

Diane:

I can't wait to share this interview with.

Diane:

Without further ado, I introduce you to Jan Rader.

Diane:

Hey Jan.

Diane:

How you doing?

Jan:

I am great.

Diane:

How are you Diane?

Diane:

I'm doing wonderful.

Diane:

Thank you.

Diane:

I like to ask really random questions of my guests so people can get

Diane:

to know you in a different way.

Diane:

And the question I want to know is, do you hang anything from

Diane:

your rear view mirror in your car?

Jan:

That is an excellent question, and the answer would

Jan:

be sometimes I have a stethoscope hanging over my rear view mirror.

Diane:

Okay, so tell me more.

Diane:

Why would you have a stethoscope in your car?

Jan:

Okay.

Jan:

So actually I'm a nurse.

Jan:

That's one of my many hats.

Jan:

But one day a week I work for a few hours with a physician at one of our local day

Jan:

shelters, to help provide free medical care for the homeless, and, if I don't

Jan:

hang my stethoscope on the day I go, on my rear view mirror, I will forget it.

Jan:

So it's either around my neck or on the rear view mirror, so I know

Jan:

to take it in and out of the house.

Jan:

It's a special stethoscope my mom got me when I graduated from nursing school.

Diane:

I love that.

Diane:

I, I'm the same way.

Diane:

So every night before I get ready for shift, or if I have, you know, something

Diane:

coming up, I lay everything out, I pack all my bags, I get everything

Diane:

ready, and I put it right by the door so I don't forget it in the morning.

Jan:

Yes, I do the same thing, especially, you know, on Wednesdays is when I

Jan:

usually go to what we call harmony house.

Jan:

And I have a special medic bag that I lay out and it's got extra

Jan:

naloxone in it and things like that.

Jan:

And, uh, extra bandages and, and my stethoscope and a pulse oximeter.

Diane:

Very, very important.

Jan:

Yes.

Diane:

Which leads me to another question.

Diane:

So you're a nurse, you are a retired fire chief, and your current role is...

Jan:

I am the director of the Mayor's Council of Public

Jan:

Health and Drug Control Policy.

Jan:

So basically I have nine people on my council and they are incredibly

Jan:

intelligent people, with extraordinary knowledge of not only the community

Jan:

but the medical field, addiction, sciences, things like that.

Jan:

And, uh, you know, we kind of meet and we try to figure out what are the best,

Jan:

compassionate policies that we can create or push for more help in certain

Jan:

areas for the people in our community to make it better and safer for everyone.

Diane:

I love that.

Diane:

So walk us through, How you got to where you are now and your stint

Diane:

in the fire service, and also your passion for opioid misuse and how

Diane:

you're helping make your community safer, including the fire community.

Jan:

Okay, so.

Jan:

Uh, let's see how much time you have in your podcast, but Okay.

Jan:

Reader's Digest version.

Jan:

You know, I was working in a jewelry store in the DC area and

Jan:

a lady had a heart attack in the doorway of the store, and I felt so

Jan:

helpless cuz I didn't even know CPR.

Jan:

So I called 9 1 1 and I stayed on the phone.

Jan:

And two young ladies stopped and did C P R and when help arrived,

Jan:

it was the fire department and there was a woman paramedic.

Jan:

And I just, at that point, I guess I didn't even know that that was a choice

Jan:

for a profession and I never wanted to feel helpless like that again.

Jan:

So I immediately took a C P R class and then an E M T basic class, and I

Jan:

applied for fire jobs, in the DC area.

Jan:

And my brother was a pastor back here in Huntington, West Virginia.

Jan:

And I grew up very close to here and he contacted me and said, Hey,

Jan:

I heard you wanna be a firefighter.

Jan:

They're given the test here.

Jan:

Take, the test and move home.

Jan:

So I did.

Jan:

And, uh, so I started my career in August of 94.

Jan:

And throughout my career, I, acquired more medical knowledge.

Jan:

I went to paramedic class, would run on my days off from the fire department

Jan:

with local EMS agencies and when I hit 40, I thought, you know what, when

Jan:

I retire from the fire department, I want a little more stability,

Jan:

uh, as far as the environment goes.

Jan:

So I went to nursing school at age 40.

Jan:

And then for years I worked all my days off at a local emergency

Jan:

room from the fire department.

Jan:

And I retired in, uh, February of 2022.

Jan:

So I had 27 and a half years in the fire service.

Jan:

And when I retired I was the chief.

Jan:

I actually had a A unique perspective of the opioid epidemic unfolding

Jan:

in my area from a firetruck and from an ER standpoint.

Jan:

So I know that's a quick version, but you know, I've, I've seen it go

Jan:

through multiple phases and, it's ever evolving and in some ways it's getting

Jan:

better, in some ways it's getting worse.

Jan:

I think I will remain in service to my community because

Jan:

it's the right thing to do.

Diane:

in-service to your community.

Diane:

Absolutely.

Diane:

So we've got almost 28 and a half years-ish.

Diane:

Serving your community.

Diane:

And there's a couple questions I wanna ask.

Diane:

Let's start, let's start with your fire service career.

Diane:

So how many women were in your organization as you were coming up?

Jan:

Okay, so when I was hired on in 94, there was one other woman that was

Jan:

working as a firefighter and within about a year's time of my starting

Jan:

my career, she had a serious back injury and had to take a disability.

Jan:

I was actually the third woman hired.

Jan:

The first one was only there for about a year.

Jan:

I think that was in 1980.

Jan:

So I was the third woman.

Jan:

But the remainder of my career, I was the only woman in my

Jan:

department of around a hundred men.

Diane:

So for almost 30 years it was just you, including at the top

Diane:

when you were the Chief Correct?

Jan:

Yes.

Diane:

How was that experience?

Jan:

Hmm.

Jan:

Interesting.

Jan:

Um, you know, I think it helped me grow as a person.

Jan:

It certainly seems unfair at times.

Jan:

But you know what?

Jan:

Life is unfair.

Jan:

I think that we choose our profession and we choose to stay or go based

Jan:

on what our own needs are and not what other people think of us.

Jan:

And I think there's a lot of authenticity to that.

Jan:

There are times when I was frustrated and wanted to quit, but I was there for me.

Jan:

And I love the profession of firefighting.

Jan:

At times it's hyper masculine, but at times I see things in the other

Jan:

firefighters, regardless of their gender or their age, that are complete

Jan:

and utter humanity, you know, the fire service lets you see the best that life

Jan:

has to offer and it certainly shows you the worst that life has to offer.

Jan:

I used to be very uptight and everything had to be a certain way,

Jan:

but it's like, you know, let it go.

Diane:

Mm-hmm.

Diane:

That is one of the best lessons and gifts that the career has given me as well.

Diane:

You never know what could happen.

Diane:

And being present in the moment is really important in seeing people's humanity.

Diane:

And that's not always easy to do, especially when you're forced living

Diane:

together and you take a bunch of different people with different

Diane:

experiences and backgrounds and values and beliefs, and you're like,

Diane:

all right, you guys are gonna live together for, you know, 24 hours.

Diane:

In my case, it's 48 hours.

Diane:

Make it work.

Jan:

Yes.

Jan:

And you know, and you pick on each other, but if somebody from the outside picks

Jan:

on you, you know, you go ballistic.

Jan:

Don't, you pick on my brother, you know, that type of thing.

Jan:

It's kind of funny.

Jan:

You could be having a bad day and, and they've really made you mad,

Jan:

but if somebody else picks on them, you're gonna stand up for him.

Jan:

It's kinda, hard to explain to the general public.

Diane:

Absolutely.

Diane:

How was that transition for you spending your entire career with one organization.

Diane:

Moving up the ladder to then become the chief of the organization?

Diane:

I'm sure there's pros and cons to both.

Diane:

I always say you can't be a prophet in your own land.

Diane:

So the, the challenges of, you know, spending your whole career in one

Diane:

organization obviously is present.

Diane:

I also think that coming in from the outside and being a complete newbie and

Diane:

not knowing the organization, although the fire service is typically, you

Diane:

know, same circus, different clowns, presents a different set of challenges.

Diane:

So how was that experience for you?

Jan:

Well, you know, I think at times it was painful.

Jan:

I think that I was able to accomplish some significant things.

Jan:

I'm not gonna say it was easy, it was certainly wasn't easy.

Jan:

I don't regret it, uh, by any means.

Jan:

Cause you know, I wanted to make our department better for those that

Jan:

come after us, regardless of what feuds I might have going with other

Jan:

people , in the department itself.

Jan:

Uh, I think the whole goal was to move us forward.

Jan:

And it might take a generation to see if, if it worked or if

Jan:

it was positive or negative.

Jan:

Who knows?

Jan:

I think Mayor Williams who, uh, appointed me.

Jan:

he saw something in me I didn't see in myself in a leadership role.

Jan:

He asked me to step into that role and we were having financial issues at the time.

Jan:

So that is a whole nother tough situation to be in, but we got through

Jan:

it and I think we're better off for it.

Diane:

How have you remained authentic to yourself, to who you are, or did

Diane:

you find that was kind of a learning curve throughout your career?

Diane:

For me, I kind of hid that for a while, my first few years.

Diane:

Cause I just wanted I wanted to be liked.

Diane:

And then there was moment when I stepped into leadership roles where I was like,

Diane:

no, I really kind of just wanna be me.

Diane:

How is that for you?

Jan:

I think it ebbs and flows and it's different for every person

Jan:

that's in a male dominated field, especially different for every woman.

Jan:

I too at times tried to pretend like I was somebody else.

Jan:

And Left my authentic side behind for a year or two here or there.

Jan:

So, you know, sometimes it was a wake up call.

Jan:

It's like, Ooh, I don't like what I'm saying.

Jan:

I don't like what I'm doing.

Jan:

I don't like who I am right now.

Jan:

I gotta get back to me.

Jan:

And I think it's a human nature to wanna fit in.

Jan:

And when you're the one that's incredibly different.

Jan:

You know, so I think you, you do things that you probably wouldn't normally do

Jan:

but I think you figure it out over time.

Diane:

I think that's the way you last.

Diane:

That's the survival, the long game is learning.

Diane:

It takes a lot of effort to be someone you're not.

Jan:

Yes.

Jan:

And then you get sick and tired of it, and then it, you know when

Jan:

you become your authentic self and they're like, what's wrong with you?

Jan:

I never have known you to be like this.

Jan:

And you're like, well, you know, hey.

Diane:

thank you for sharing that with me.

Diane:

It's a good segue.

Diane:

You did a lot of great things, your time as the chief, and I think one

Diane:

of the most impressive things that ties into also your work with opioid

Diane:

misuse is your Compass program.

Diane:

And if you wouldn't mind sharing just a little bit how you really took

Diane:

care of your people, you took care of your community and the firefighters

Diane:

that served the community because of the opioid crisis, it was a catalyst

Diane:

for a really incredible program.

Jan:

Well, you know, I think, um, my entire career being an outsider

Jan:

looking in, you know, being the only woman, made me focus the majority

Jan:

of my career on the fact that we're not allowed to talk about emotions.

Jan:

We're not allowed to take care of our mental health, you know, because it is

Jan:

such a stigmatized thing to do in the fire service or in a completely male dominated

Jan:

culture, you know, that's considered a weakness in their eyes and, and it is so

Jan:

not, so how do you break that stigma?

Jan:

And as the epidemic unfolded, you know, when I started my career in,

Jan:

in 94, you know, there were, it was probably five or six years before I

Jan:

saw a significant number of deaths.

Jan:

And when I would see a death, it was typically an older person who maybe had

Jan:

a heart attack or a stroke or, you know, maybe you'd see a bad motorcycle wreck, or

Jan:

whatever, but you had time to recuperate.

Jan:

Fast forward to 2010 when overdoses started taking off.

Jan:

And overdose deaths were on the rise.

Jan:

It was a completely different ballgame because our firefighters were not

Jan:

just going on overdose deaths.

Jan:

They were going on deaths of their classmates, their friends, people

Jan:

that they knew in their community.

Jan:

And that's very taxing.

Jan:

And you know, you, you witness as a leader coming up through the ranks,

Jan:

you witness all the behavioral issues that go along with somebody who's

Jan:

struggling with their mental health.

Jan:

And, you know, in Huntington, we want to normalize that.

Jan:

We want that, you know, going to see a therapist once a year for a checkup is

Jan:

just going, like, going to your regular physician for a checkup every year.

Jan:

And like, guys don't like to do that either, uh, which is, uh, a problem.

Jan:

So, uh, in 2017, Mayor Williams got a group of us together and said,

Jan:

look I want to put in for a grant.

Jan:

It was the Bloomberg Mayor's Challenge Grant, and where you identify a

Jan:

problem and then you make a proposal to fix that problem within your city.

Jan:

And there were over 300 applications for this process.

Jan:

And the five of us that were put in a room and decided what

Jan:

we were going to tackle, we all came to the same conclusion.

Jan:

Our number one biggest issue is compassion fatigue, PTSD, amongst our

Jan:

first responders, our police and fire.

Jan:

Our county runs EMS , where the city runs police and fire.

Jan:

we made a proposal and we were selected to be a finalist, which meant that we

Jan:

had eight months and a hundred thousand dollars to try to test out our theory of

Jan:

what we wanted to do to fix the problem.

Jan:

And we were in the running for a million dollars over three years.

Jan:

And we were one of nine cities that we were the only city that tackled

Jan:

compassion fatigue with first responders.

Jan:

But we actually received a million dollars to guide us in in completing a program

Jan:

called Compass Navigating Wellness.

Jan:

And that was part of the process too.

Jan:

How do we name this and what do we include?

Jan:

And we're very proud of it because it is a program that is, Developed

Jan:

and run by first responders.

Jan:

As a leader, we got things going, but we used focus groups within both

Jan:

departments to determine what was needed and how to deliver that to them.

Jan:

Like for instance, they wanted their own wellness center where they could go work

Jan:

out and the general public wasn't there.

Jan:

Their wives weren't there, family members weren't there because we know

Jan:

what each other needs in that moment.

Jan:

We experienced things differently, but, but we experienced the same events.

Jan:

So we raised money and created a wellness center on top of developing

Jan:

the program and the program incorporates a mental health coach and a physical

Jan:

fitness coach within both departments.

Jan:

So, for instance, as a chief, when I had a bad call, I could call my

Jan:

mental health coach to the scene.

Jan:

I issued her gear and I'd say work with the guys.

Jan:

sometimes I was calling in pastors to deal with family members if we had a fire

Jan:

death, especially involving children.

Jan:

Then I could take care of the media but having the ability to lean on

Jan:

somebody that's going to focus on the mental health of your people

Jan:

is very comforting for a leader.

Jan:

I think it's 87% of all first responders in the city of Huntington actually

Jan:

are involved in the Compass program.

Jan:

Somehow.

Jan:

It's completely voluntary.

Jan:

Uh, before I left the, the role as chief, I wrote a policy that allowed them to

Jan:

take firetrucks to this workout center for an hour a day and be on delayed

Jan:

response, you know that their shift commander worked that out, who was there

Jan:

and when, so they could work out and get some relief from a 24 hour shift.

Jan:

We have a yoga room, we have yoga in fire stations couple times a week.

Jan:

there's jiujitsu, there's mindfulness training.

Jan:

Uh, a lot of the equipment was picked out by our police and firefighters.

Jan:

It is job specific.

Jan:

Like, there's a machine that simulates pulling the rope,

Jan:

the lanyard to raise a ladder.

Jan:

It's a very unique program and I think it's gonna be a game changer, but I also

Jan:

think it's gonna be a generational thing.

Jan:

Since we opened the program in 2018, 2019, all new police officers and

Jan:

firefighters spend an hour a day with either the Mental Health coach

Jan:

or the physical fitness coach, and they're both women and they're both

Jan:

named Amy, so we call 'em Amy squared.

Jan:

It's amazing.

Jan:

Our, our goal is to make your mental health and your physical

Jan:

health, your wellness, your whole wellness, a part of your every day

Jan:

job, along with this incredible profession that you're coming into.

Jan:

Cause we want you on the other side when you retire to be

Jan:

whole, mind, body, and spirit.

Diane:

What a gift.

Diane:

A gift for the current generation and for future generations.

Diane:

I mean, I, I was hired a few years after you were in early 2000 and I can't

Diane:

imagine my academy cadre, the way that my academy was run, saying, all right

Diane:

guys, we need to take an hour break, with the mental health professional.

Jan:

Yes.

Jan:

And we're going to meditate and we're gonna do mindfulness.

Jan:

And here's some breathing exercises that you can do, uh, to keep you in

Jan:

the moment, present in the moment.

Jan:

The good thing is, the Amy's Amy squared, they, you know, they do ride alongs.

Jan:

They go on and they ride with police officers.

Jan:

They ride on firetrucks.

Jan:

Sometimes they have dinner with the guys, and they are accepted.

Jan:

Because, you know, Unaccepting of strangers, the fire service is.

Jan:

But they, uh, have welcomed the Amy's with open arms.

Jan:

So it's been kind of neat.

Diane:

That's amazing.

Diane:

Do you have metrics to track it?

Diane:

I mean, like, so it continues to grow everyone's involved.

Diane:

The sustainability, it kind of is now its own machine.

Jan:

Yes.

Jan:

It is.

Jan:

Of course the grant is done.

Jan:

Uh, this, the Mayor Williams absorbed their salaries of the

Jan:

Amy's, and we have a program manager.

Jan:

His name is Austin.

Jan:

So you have to have a name that begins with an A to work for us.

Jan:

But Mayor Williams has, uh, absorbed their salaries and wants

Jan:

this to continue and thrive.

Jan:

I think it's.

Jan:

Set.

Jan:

I think anybody who becomes mayor in the future would be hard

Jan:

pressed to take it away from us.

Jan:

You know, to me it's an investment for the city.

Jan:

You're gonna see Decrease in sick leave abuse, you're gonna see a decrease

Jan:

in injuries and things like that.

Jan:

We are blessed to have Marshall University in our town, so they are the driving

Jan:

force for the research behind the Compass Navigating Wellness Program.

Diane:

And what a gift of self care that you're teaching, that the

Diane:

organization is teaching itself.

Diane:

How important it is that, uh, first responders take care of themselves first

Diane:

so that they can serve the community and this opportunity led you down a

Diane:

pretty crazy, amazing path that I, I love to hear the story and just so

Diane:

everyone listening can get caught up.

Diane:

I met Jan several years ago.

Diane:

We belong in a group through the International Association of Fire

Diane:

Chiefs, and I just, she was hysterical and she showed me pictures of her dog,

Diane:

and this was in North Carolina, and I was like, man, she's really cool.

Diane:

And prior to that, I had heard her give a keynote at the same conference in 2019,

Diane:

and I became a little bit of a fan girl.

Diane:

I own that.

Diane:

How can you not be, and you know, just how funny and engaging you are.

Diane:

And you shared about the Compass program, but you also participated

Diane:

in a documentary that kind of blew up and became a big deal.

Jan:

Yeah, that, yeah, that kind of happened by accident

Jan:

too, so it's kinda weird.

Diane:

and you've also given a TED talk and I looked this

Diane:

morning on the TED website.

Diane:

You're almost at 2 million views according to today, so that's kind of a big deal.

Diane:

Um, would you please share a little bit of your story on Heroine and

Diane:

how that led to the TED Talk?

Diane:

And I've got a couple follow up questions about opioid misuse after that

Jan:

Oh, nice.

Jan:

In 2014, the fall of 2014, mayor Williams put together a team of people

Jan:

to work on the opioid epidemic, and he called it the Mayor's office of

Jan:

drug control policy modeled after the National Office of Drug Control Policy.

Jan:

And he knew I was a nurse, because he had his parents in the emergency room.

Jan:

So he had seen me in there and he asked me if I would be a part of this.

Jan:

And so I, I was like, absolutely, because what we're doing isn't working.

Jan:

We need to change what we do.

Jan:

And, and of course change is hard.

Jan:

Everybody hates it.

Jan:

So we started working on some things and starting some programs to affect positive

Jan:

change and better outcomes for people suffering from substance use disorder.

Jan:

In the meantime, a couple.

Jan:

Married couple, Elaine McMillion Sheldon and her husband Curren, came to

Jan:

Huntington and they're young filmmakers and they wanted to see what we were

Jan:

doing here because they were losing their classmates, two overdose deaths.

Jan:

And they liked what we were doing.

Jan:

Mayor Williams said, look, show 'em around, you know, let him film whatever.

Jan:

So at the time, I was a Deputy Chief so I was basically like a battalion chief.

Jan:

We call it deputy chief here.

Jan:

So they actually stayed in a fire station a couple nights.

Jan:

They filmed for about a week and I took them around and introduced them

Jan:

to all these wonderful people in Huntington that are doing great things.

Jan:

We have a street minister named Nasha Freeman, who's

Jan:

just fabulous and drug court.

Jan:

You know, we have, uh, a lot of programs for neonatal abstinence babies.

Jan:

I took 'em around and, and they said, well, we're gonna look for some

Jan:

funding and we'll, We'll let you know.

Jan:

So about five months later, Elaine called me and she said, look, Jan,

Jan:

we found some funding through the Center of Investigative Reporting,

Jan:

but it's for women filmmakers making short documentaries about women

Jan:

making change in their communities.

Jan:

And we wanted to focus on you and Nisha Freeman and Judge Keller.

Jan:

Would you mind?

Jan:

And I'm like, It's up to Mayor Williams and the other ladies.

Jan:

You know, I, I'm, I'm Game and Mayor Williams was like, of

Jan:

course this is, this is great.

Jan:

And the other ladies decided they would do it as well.

Jan:

And so they came back and did a little more filming not much.

Jan:

I'm a documentary junkie, so I didn't think anything of it.

Jan:

We didn't think it would be any big deal.

Jan:

But, after they started editing, uh, got another call and said, Hey,

Jan:

by the way, Netflix has bought it.

Jan:

So I can't show it to you beforehand.

Jan:

And we're like, okay, whatever.

Jan:

But it just kind of blew up and I think it gave people permission to

Jan:

talk about a very difficult situation and a, a very difficult problem.

Jan:

And , to this day, I still had people reach out to me.

Jan:

It, it, uh, debuted in the fall of 2017 and, you know, it

Jan:

was nominated for an Oscar.

Jan:

After that, I got an email from somebody at TED saying,

Jan:

I want you to do a TED talk.

Jan:

And I, you know, I thought, yeah, you know how firefighters are, I

Jan:

thought somebody was punking me and they had made up this email.

Jan:

So I kind of blew them off for about a week.

Jan:

But I finally talked to the curator and she talked me into it.

Jan:

So I, actually did the TED Talk.

Jan:

In the fall of, I think it was the fall of 18 at Ted Women, and I'm still

Jan:

really good friends with that curator.

Jan:

She's an amazing human being.

Diane:

It's a wonderful talk and I'll link the talk, the Heroine, and all the things

Diane:

in the show notes so that everyone else can see your talk and see the documentary.

Diane:

I think first responders, we have a different view of the substance abuse

Diane:

disorder that is sweeping across America, especially when it comes to opioid misuse.

Diane:

And I would love to hear your perspective.

Diane:

If you could describe kind of the stigma that surrounds it and I

Diane:

think it's not what you think when it comes to substance abuse disorder.

Diane:

It's not people that are unhoused, that are living under a bridge.

Diane:

That's not what makes up the opioid crisis and it's not how it starts.

Jan:

Yes, I think it's very complex and, and I understand the

Jan:

frustration that we all feel from it.

Jan:

I think that it's important for us to meet everybody where they are, whether it's

Jan:

that firefighter suffering from compassion fatigue because they've lost five friends

Jan:

in the past year and a half to overdose or it's the person who had a bad car wreck,

Jan:

was hospitalized for two months, and then they became addicted to pain pills and,

Jan:

and here they are, but we also have to meet the general public where they are.

Jan:

And there needs to be a lot of education all around, uh, I think

Jan:

first responders are frustrated because they don't know how to deal with this.

Jan:

You know, we're supposed to be the people who run in and save people, and

Jan:

in this instance, we feel like we can't because we see people not getting help.

Jan:

Okay.

Jan:

Um, I think people who are suffering feel that we're judgemental when

Jan:

we go to an overdose because, you know, our adrenaline's gone

Jan:

and we say, you could have died.

Jan:

What were you thinking?

Jan:

And we don't mean it in a mean way, but it's taken that way.

Jan:

I can honestly say to me, and this is clearly just my own

Jan:

perspective, I'm watching this.

Jan:

I think the first wave started with people getting legally hooked on pills.

Jan:

We had companies that were pushing a medication that was less addictive or

Jan:

non-addictive, and it was meant for life, end of life care, or chronic pain.

Jan:

And it was getting handed out like candy for , sprained

Jan:

ankle or stove thumb or bad.

Jan:

That caused a lot of unscrupulous people to open pill mills and they were

Jan:

very abundant, especially in Florida.

Jan:

And a lot of people in Appalachia where I live would fly or drive down

Jan:

to Florida buy thousands of pills.

Jan:

And then, you know, then we had shift from pills to heroin because

Jan:

the pill mills were shut down.

Jan:

pretty much overnight.

Jan:

I can tell you almost dates when things happen, but we didn't understand

Jan:

addiction, you know, and people were getting, they didn't wanna be high,

Jan:

they just didn't wanna be sick.

Jan:

So they move on to heroin, which, you know, that's, Inviting something into

Jan:

your body with a needle, which leads to bloodborne pathogens and the spreading

Jan:

of HIV, hepatitis and, uh, the spread of infection in the body like endocarditis.

Jan:

So it complicated things medically, uh, overdose deaths increase because

Jan:

we went from a metered dose to an unmetered dosed if I said that right.

Jan:

The product at one point changed from heroin to fentanyl, which

Jan:

we don't have control over.

Jan:

It all comes mostly from cartels in Mexico and it floods the United States right now.

Jan:

It's an another shift.

Jan:

So you know when in 2010 when I was, you know, trying to revive somebody

Jan:

from an overdose and I would look over and see a child watching us try to

Jan:

revive their parent, fast forward to the day and now that kid who watched

Jan:

is now suffering from addiction, but it's for a different reason.

Jan:

It's trauma based versus I got legally hooked on pills.

Jan:

So I think that there's been a shift in many areas, like why

Jan:

people are suffering from addiction.

Jan:

The product is changing, which is complicating things.

Jan:

So I think that we need to focus on.

Jan:

Getting people well and better, because if there's no

Jan:

demand, the supply will dry up.

Jan:

It seems simple, but it's not.

Diane:

What would you say to people who don't have firsthand experience

Diane:

with addiction like we've seen in our life and professionally, personally.

Diane:

What are some of the ways people struggle that someone like, you

Diane:

know, I'm a parent and I'm not familiar with it and I don't really

Diane:

understand, and something's different with my kid, but I don't really know.

Diane:

are There certain hallmark signs?

Diane:

Are there certain like behaviors that might indicate struggles?

Jan:

I think trying to keep communication.

Jan:

As free and open as possible is a start.

Jan:

Uh, you know, there's a lot of education that you can find

Jan:

on signs to look for online.

Jan:

Uh, it's scary to have kids today.

Jan:

Because you know, when you and I were little, if we made a mistake, hoopty do,

Jan:

but a mistake nowadays can be lethal.

Jan:

One mistake can be lethal.

Jan:

So it's very different.

Jan:

I also think part of this has been fueled by the fact that the drug war

Jan:

that started in the seventies has never worked and the general public has been

Jan:

told for years, if you suffer from addiction, you have a moral failing.

Jan:

And that's simply not true.

Jan:

It's a brain disorder.

Jan:

So I think that we need to change our mindset as a society to get

Jan:

people better because there are plenty of people in long-term

Jan:

recovery and doing amazing things doesn't mean they were a bad person.

Jan:

They might have done bad things while they were suffering in active addiction,

Jan:

but that doesn't define who they are.

Diane:

thank you for that perspective.

Diane:

I share that same perspective.

Diane:

It's the humanness of people and, and it's, you know, it's the looking at

Diane:

people through curiosity instead of judgment, which is easy for us to say.

Diane:

I think that's sometimes hard to apply because we all, along with our own

Diane:

upbringing and everything else, and values and morals, we also come equipped with our

Diane:

own biases and judgments towards people.

Diane:

We all have it.

Diane:

And yes, I just, you know, when it comes to seeing the effects of addiction and

Diane:

the impact it can have on families, and like you said, long-term recovery,

Diane:

there's a lot of people of long-term recovery that you'd have no idea.

Jan:

Exactly.

Diane:

And that instilling, you know, you're not the mistakes that you've made,

Diane:

you're not the choices that you've made.

Diane:

It's that being present, that mindfulness, every day is a new day.

Diane:

And I think compassion is what comes to, you know, cuz we have compassion

Diane:

fatigue, but just trying to view people not as the choices they

Diane:

made, but as the humans they are.

Diane:

And what experiences have they gone through where they feel that they need

Diane:

to numb with a substance to just get by.

Jan:

Let's face it, it's easier to numb than to deal with the

Jan:

trauma that life has to offer.

Jan:

I mean, I get it.

Jan:

I get it.

Jan:

And I, and I'll share with you, I just recently read a book, called

Jan:

self-Compassion for Dummies, and in, in this, uh, Stephen Hickman,

Jan:

uh, great book, by the way.

Jan:

But in it, he described what we call compassion fatigue, is truly empathy

Jan:

fatigue, but I won't go into that.

Jan:

It's just too much.

Jan:

I still call it compassion fatigue.

Diane:

A couple weeks ago, I had to go to urgent care because

Diane:

my lower back was, Angry.

Diane:

My lower back and my hip were on fire and I'm not one to go to the doctor.

Diane:

I went to the chiropractor, I went to acupuncture.

Diane:

I did all the other things first, and I saw the doctor and.

Diane:

She poked around, she goes, oh, it's not your back.

Diane:

It's your hip.

Diane:

You've got bursitis in your hip.

Diane:

And I was like, I don't know what that means.

Diane:

And she's like, well, you need to rest.

Diane:

I'm like, what's my hip?

Diane:

I don't know.

Diane:

Like, that's, that's a lot.

Diane:

Especially what I do.

Diane:

And she's like, well, here, let me give you some Flexeril

Diane:

and some, um, pain pills.

Diane:

I go, well, is that gonna fix it?

Diane:

She's like, no, but it might make you more comfortable.

Diane:

And it was so quick to just give me the pills.

Diane:

I filled.

Diane:

Because I was traveling and I'm not gonna use it.

Diane:

Like that's the, you know, cuz I, I didn't use it cuz she had to be scared

Diane:

for a little bit of, oh God, what if it is so incredibly painful that I'm

Diane:

on an airplane and I can't do anything and I know better I have the training.

Diane:

So I can't imagine someone that doesn't have that training and

Diane:

just, you know, that blind.

Diane:

Okay.

Diane:

Yeah, let's go ahead and, you know, the doctor gave me this so

Diane:

I might as well take it how easy it is to make that connection.

Jan:

Right, And how many pills did they give you?

Jan:

Maybe three day supply, five day.

Diane:

I think there was 15 in the bottle.

Jan:

Okay, so let's think about 2010 before there were rules about how

Jan:

many pain pills you can give somebody.

Jan:

They might have given you 90 pills.

Jan:

60 pills, you know, they might have given you a month's supply and after

Jan:

five days you can be physically hooked, it happened very easily.

Diane:

Yeah.

Diane:

It doesn't, it doesn't take, and it was cheap.

Diane:

It was a $6 prescription.

Diane:

Thank you for sharing all that.

Diane:

I just love your life and how you're so humble and open to all of these

Diane:

experiences that you know every path you've gone down it, it's just so

Diane:

fascinating to hear the different stories.

Diane:

And it all comes back to you taking care of your community and your organization.

Diane:

How have you taken care of yourself.

Diane:

Because I think that sometimes we get so busy making sure we're

Diane:

taking care of everyone else.

Diane:

We forget to take care of ourselves and we, we teach what we need, which is why

Diane:

I talk about self-care all the time.

Diane:

how do you take care of yourself?

Jan:

Well, I am with you.

Jan:

I'm very bad at it.

Jan:

I have struggled over the years.

Jan:

But you know, sometimes it's simply walking outside for a half

Jan:

hour on my lunch break instead of going to get something to eat.

Jan:

Sometimes I sit and meditate for five minutes.

Jan:

Sometimes it's just your basic box breathing.

Jan:

But I'm getting much better at recognizing the signs in me that

Jan:

let me know I need a complete break.

Jan:

And here recently now, I couldn't do it while I was chief, but here recently,

Jan:

I'll take like a weekend off and not look at any social media or not answer

Jan:

the phone after 5:00 PM or whatever.

Jan:

Those are luxuries I could not do when I was the fire chief, you know?

Jan:

But, uh, I'm still learning how to take care of myself.

Jan:

I just finished up a mindfulness coaching class.

Jan:

Cause mindfulness has really helped me since I, you know, I

Jan:

was introduced to it in 2016.

Jan:

I've done a couple, weekend getaways.

Jan:

With mindfulness one, we weren't allowed to talk all weekend.

Jan:

It was great.

Jan:

It was great.

Jan:

Yes.

Jan:

Yeah, just like a a little retreat, I guess.

Jan:

I love mindfulness, I think, and it's hard, you know, people think,

Jan:

oh, it's gonna gonna be easy.

Jan:

No, it's hard stuff, you know, it always brings me back to, uh, did you ever

Jan:

see the movie A League of Their Own?

Diane:

Yep.

Jan:

Okay, so my favorite line in that movie is when Jimmy Dugan

Jan:

catches, big Dotty Henson, getting ready to leave and drive back

Jan:

cross country with her husband and.

Jan:

You can't leave baseball.

Jan:

It's what gets inside you.

Jan:

And she said it just got too hard.

Jan:

And he said if it was easy, everybody would do it.

Jan:

It's the hard, that makes it great.

Jan:

You know, I love that line.

Jan:

You know, so mindfulness is not easy.

Jan:

Taking care of yourself is not easy, but it's imperative That you take care

Jan:

of yourself so that you can be, a better person, for others, you know,

Jan:

cuz I feel like we're all here to serve.

Jan:

And to take care of those who can't take care of themselves.

Jan:

Um, you know, I think that's, you know, I think that there's a higher

Jan:

power putting you where you need to be.

Jan:

I'm kind of a late bloomer.

Jan:

I'm in my late fifties, but, you know, I kind of was late to the fire service.

Jan:

I was kind of late to figuring things out, but, you know, better late than never.

Jan:

Right?

Diane:

I don't think you're late.

Diane:

I think you've right on time.

Jan:

Well, I appreciate that.

Diane:

How have you created community in your life then?

Diane:

Because being the only woman for most of your career, you have, I'm sure a

Diane:

community within your organization, when you were with the fire service.

Diane:

But how have you created community to help support you on your journey through

Diane:

these different paths you've taken?

Jan:

Well, I have a really cool sister and a really cool brother.

Jan:

My brother's a Presbyterian minister, so he's kind of cool in his own right.

Jan:

Outside of that I did have some really amazing male Leaders in my department that

Jan:

I could lean on and that were champions for women being in the fire service.

Jan:

One now is the fire chief again.

Jan:

He was my fire chief before.

Jan:

there are men who, make life very easy for women in the fire service and, and

Jan:

they are true Sherpa's and, and champions.

Jan:

Outside of that, it's through organizations like the International

Jan:

Association of Fire Chiefs, you know, meeting you, you're part of my

Jan:

tribe, you're part of my community.

Jan:

There are a lot of women out there in public safety leadership

Jan:

positions that, that can lean on each other and lift each other up.

Jan:

And I, and uh, you know, I think that that's something that we need to.

Diane:

I agree completely.

Diane:

Because all boats rise.

Jan:

All Boats Rise.

Diane:

All boats rise.

Diane:

Well, thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Diane:

I have a question that's been on my mind and that's been kind of floating

Diane:

around social media and it's male dominated versus male saturated.

Jan:

Hmm.

Diane:

Which term , give me your answer and I'll tell you what

Diane:

I'm thinking between the two

Jan:

That's interesting.

Jan:

I've never, heard, term male saturated, you know, which is interesting.

Jan:

you know, to, to, to me, uh, I, I prefer the male dominated.

Jan:

Male dominated doesn't need to be a negative connotation.

Jan:

But I think that there is so much more benefit from diversity.

Jan:

But male saturation, that's, that's an interesting term.

Jan:

Maybe masculine, saturated.

Diane:

I've heard it and I tried it on and I've said it a couple times.

Diane:

And I'm just not sure where I land because when heard male saturated,

Diane:

Get kind of the same feeling that I do when I hear moist, and I don't know why

Jan:

I can't.

Jan:

Oh, that's hilarious.

Diane:

I can't really connect the dots as to why.

Diane:

I'm just not sure.

Diane:

I'm not trying to, you know, any controversy.

Diane:

I'm curious because I agree male dominated isn't necessarily bad and I have had more

Diane:

role models professionally that are males.

Diane:

And I don't wanna take away from that.

Diane:

And I also do think diversity is really important and it's diversity

Diane:

beyond the check boxes of having more women in underrepresented groups,

Diane:

specifically in the fire service, but really in all areas of life.

Diane:

It's appreciating the belonging that we all need.

Diane:

We all belong there, that we've all taken steps to get where we are.

Diane:

And we all have different experiences and paths that get us to the location.

Diane:

Cuz it's about the journey, not the destination and so I was just curious.

Diane:

I, I wanted to drop that on you because of your wisdom and insight and to see

Diane:

what, what you think about the two

Jan:

Absolutely.

Jan:

That that one's gonna marinate for a while, and I'm probably gonna get back to

Jan:

you on that because, you know, to, to me, I would love to see more women in the fire

Jan:

service, but it needs to be right for them and it has to be for the right reasons.

Jan:

Same thing with any diversity, that you experience.

Jan:

I think that there's a lot of tradition in the fire service that needs to open

Jan:

up a little bit, and I think there's a lot of fear to keep it male dominated.

Jan:

But you know, why is that fear, why, why shouldn't we go down that

Jan:

path of trying to figure that out?

Jan:

Because I think that if men in the fire service knew as many badass

Jan:

women that you and I know that they would be very welcoming of

Jan:

more women in the fire service.

Diane:

Absolutely.

Diane:

It, it's like you say, firefighters hate, two things change and the way things are.

Jan:

Absolutely.

Jan:

We want something to complain about at all times, you know, to keep us occupied.

Diane:

Exactly.

Diane:

Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy

Diane:

schedule to chat with me today.

Diane:

It's always lovely talking to you and learning more of your insights and wisdom.

Diane:

I really appreciate it and I will make sure that all of your

Diane:

information is in the show notes so that people can find you.

Jan:

Oh, well thank you so much.

Jan:

It's been quite a pleasure and, uh, good luck.

Jan:

I love your podcast.

Jan:

I've listened to every episode and, um, you know, maybe you'll have

Jan:

me back on your show in 10 years.

Diane:

Oh, I think it'll be sooner than that.

Diane:

Don't worry.

Diane:

All right.

Diane:

Thank you

Diane:

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to listen to this episode.

Diane:

Curious on what to do next.

Diane:

Go ahead and follow wherever you're listening to this podcast so you

Diane:

can get updates each week when new episodes are released, and head on

Diane:

over to the fire inside her.com/audio for a free audio to help you get

Diane:

started on your self-care journey.

Diane:

Until next time, remember.

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