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MDOC launches employee mental health initiative amid concerns over stress and suicides

New recruits for MDOC at swearing in ceremony raising their hand
Michigan Department of Corrections
New Michigan Department of Corrections officers being sworn in. Gorski says the department has stepped up its recruitment efforts to address overtime and staff shortages.

Working as a corrections officer can be a high stress job. Earlier this year, we spoke with Cary Johnson, a corrections officer in Jackson, about the mental health challenges facing the state’s prison workforce.

Johnson has lost four colleagues to suicide within two years, and she told us both cultural and structural changes were needed to create a healthier work environment for the state’s corrections officers.

Now, the Michigan Department of Corrections is creating an employee wellness program to help correctional officers deal with the high stress environment of working in a prison.

It will be led by Lynn Gorski, a licensed mental health professional, who did similar work for nearly nine years with the Michigan State Police.

“It is not just a time for a department to be reactive to crisis, it’s a time for departments to have more of a proactive stance in wellness,” said Gorski.

As part of that proactive approach, Gorski says the MDOC will be hiring trained staff for the employee wellness unit, as well as developing a peer support program. She says the MDOC is also working to increase its recruitment of new officers to reduce issues with short staffing and forced overtime.

To hear more about the MDOC’s plans for the employee wellness plan, listen to the full conversation with Lynn Gorski above.

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