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Poker chips give meaning to St. Joseph County dispatchers

Poker chips give meaning to St. Joseph County dispatchers

Erik Hanson
March 20

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- A simple poker chip that you would find in a casino, is also in the pockets of employees at the St. Joseph County 911 center. The center’s Peer Support Team created the poker chip to remind employees help is available as they deal with the impact of the job. The chip displays the department’s logo with the words “No one fights alone.” “It’s just that reminder that even on a really bad day, sometimes in this room with all of these people, you just feel like you’re the only one. And that’s not true,” said Team Leader and Dispatcher Dan Tinkel. That collaborative idea came to life last week as the team passed out poker chips to workers to keep in their pockets, lockers, or wherever they go. Not only are the chips physical signs to employees, they can also be a sign for help if one is placed in front of a member of the team. “Sometimes when you need help, when you need to talk, it’s hard to take that breath and go “Hi, I need a moment of your time, I need some help,” Tinkel explained. “It’s like where do you start? So instead of having to take that breath and figuring out what to say, you can take the chip and hand it to one of us, and we know that’s you saying “I need a moment of your time, or maybe I need a lot of moments of your time.” Dispatchers say the mental health of 911 operators is often overlooked. “We deal with people at their worst moments,” said Tinkel. “It builds up over time, and even if you say, “Well it’s not my family, it’s not my problem, I go home at the end of the day,” it sticks with you.” Even though the department is sometimes included in Critical Incident Debriefing Teams of police and fire agencies, dispatchers say their points of view are different. Instead, the Peer Support Team was built last November to help employees day-to-day to let go of stresses from the job or even outside the job.