The First Responders Peer Support Network was started in 2021. Our home-base is located in the coastal area of Carteret County N.C.
We are currently providing services to First Responders and their families throughout North Carolina.
We also have teams represented in the states of Vermont, South Carolina and Florida.
Our teams are made up of active and retired members of Fire, EMS, Law-Enforcement, Telecommunication and Military Agencies.
Our team members are passionate and committed to the advocacy and education of first responders and family members mental health due to job related and everyday life stressors and traumas.
We believe our commitment to training and outreach helps serve our first responders and their families in a proactive and preventative fashion to help manage potential mental health issues in a positive manner.
Date of inception: January 2021
Mr. Eric Stephenson is the Executive Director of the First Responders Peer Support Network located on the coast of North Carolina.
Eric is a 30-year veteran of the fire service. He has worked as a firefighter, paramedic, Lieutenant and recently retired as a shift Captain.
Eric has a strong passion for first responder mental health and is an advocate on this platform as he is a PTSD survivor himself.
Eric and his wife Debra, who is also retired from Emergency Services have faced many challenges along their journey of recovery together in relation to Eric's PTSD, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations.
This prompted them to put a program together titled "Success On The Home Front" which addresses the struggles first responders and significant others may face together.
Eric credits his progress in recovery to several things. First his wife, peer support and mental health counseling and treatment.
Mrs. Debra Stephenson is the Director of Family Services for the First Responders Peer Support Network.
She recently retired from a 25 year career in Emergency Services. She served as a firefighter, paramedic, shift Officer and finally as Battalion Chief.
Debra is an advocate of first responder mental health.
She has faced many of her own challenges throughout her career and personal life and has been successful with the assistance of peer support and professional counseling.
Debra co-presents a program titled "Success On The Home Front" with her husband Eric which addresses common issues amongst first responder couples that are often mismanaged.
A Carteret County native, I was born the middle of 5 and raised around a firehouse. There was no question what my aspirations were when I was getting into high school. I joined the junior program at my local volunteer fire dept when I was 15 years old and have not looked back since. I have been a paramedic/firefighter for Morehead City Fire Department for the last 7 years and currently the department therapy dog (Cowboy) handler. With almost 20 years in the Fire & EMS services I know a little bit about bad calls. I struggled for a long time silently with alcohol and prescription medications to ease the pain, that inevitably led to suicidal ideations. It was not until December of 2019 I made the decision to ask for help, I knew I could no longer do it alone. It has proven to be the best decision I have ever made. Not only am I coping healthier and living happier life, but I also no longer dread going to work. I was diagnosed with PTSD, Depression and anxiety in early 2020 and due to having a safe circle of peers and taking a much healthier approach to my mental health, today I am sober and adventuring into substance abuse counseling, to better serve my peers in need. I am grateful that I am alive and able to be here for others like me who may be struggling. You are not alone, and you are worth mental peace!! You CANNOT pour from an empty cup.
Gerald G. Mishoe
Mr. Gerald Mishoe is currently the Executive Director of the Lowcountry Firefighter Support Team, Inc. headquartered in the coastal area of South Carolina.
He has been involved in the Fire Service since 1967 as a firefighter, paramedic, company officer, and a chief officer. In 2007, he was asked to lead the development of a counseling unit for the Charleston Fire Department after the tragic deaths of nine Charleston firefighters in the Sofa Super Store Fire.
In 2012, he was one of the founders of the South Carolina Firefighter Assistance and Support Team that provides behavioral health care for emergency services personnel across the state.
In 2013, the Charleston Firefighter Support Team transitioned as a non-profit organization to the Lowcountry Firefighter Support Team that now serves twenty-three counties in the lower state region of the State with a comprehensive peer and clinical based program.
The Team is comprised of eighty peer team members and twenty clinicians in five different regions of the lower state.
In 2017, he led the formation of the Lowcountry EMS Support Team followed in 2018 with the Lowcountry 911 Telecommunicator Support Team to provide improved support for EMS and 911 Telecommunicators.
All three Teams, Firefighter, EMS, and 911 Telecommunicators, operate under the original 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization to provide a well-rounded program for our emergency services personnel and their families.
Gerald is also a development team member of the Center for Firefighter Behavioral Health, headquartered at the Medical University of South Carolina, that provides online resources and training for firefighters throughout the United States and abroad. He reconsidered well-versed on firefighter behavioral health and is a sought-after speaker and instructor in the subject matter.
Kaye Knauff is a former medical EMS-explorer, EMT-B, and volunteer Fire Fighter. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing,
Master of Science in Nursing with specialization in Family Practice and post-graduate Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse
Practitioner Programs at Johns Hopkins University, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Chatham University with a specific focus
on behavior change and the integration of primary care and mental/behavioral health services. Kaye was a National Health Service
Corp Scholar and military spouse who is passionate about promoting high quality, effective, and efficient healthcare for patients in rural,
medically underserved areas and for military/veteran/ emergency service members and their families. She has been certified as a family
nurse practitioner (FNP) for more than 19 years, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner for 4 years and an educator for 6 years. She
has a wealth of experience in a variety of clinical settings to include Immigration Health Services, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics,
Aerospace Medicine, Women’s Health, Occupational Medicine with Deployment Related Health Assessments, Employee
Health, and Family Practice. She completed the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Nursing with specialization in Family
Practice and post-graduate Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs at Johns Hopkins University, with a specific
focus on behavior change and the integration of primary care and mental/behavioral health services.
Kaye’s professional development demonstrates that she is active in scholarly activities and implementing evidence-based
practice changes in various clinical settings. She has worked in a county-based employee wellness program to implement a
behavioral wellness division with specific focus on holistic emotional, behavioral, and mental wellness for first responders for
the past 3 years. She implemented an educational initiative to improve primary care provider participation in assisting patients to
change behaviors using the Five A’s Model of Obesity Management. She also secured funding and conducted research, in
collaboration with community partners, in areas of health promotion and disease prevention. Her project provided education
about health eating and active living for approximately 10,000 elementary school children in the Wichita Falls and Burkburnett
Independent School Districts. She was instrumental in obtaining a $1,500,000 Health Resources and Services Administration
(HRSA) grant for a state supported university in Texas, to enhance the nurse practitioner program. The grant specifically focused
on teaching nurse practitioner students enhanced skills to provide more effective and efficient care in rural and underserved area
with use of telemedicine and focused clinical experiences.
She volunteers with the Western North Carolina Peer Support Network and International Society of Psychiatric Nurses
Foundation Board of Directors. Kaye extremely innovative and works diligently to strategically implement evidence-based
practice programs through various organizations. She consistently sets high standards for clinical and academic excellence and is
committed to meeting people where they are emotionally, behaviorally, or mentally, to become the best the possible self and live
their best life. As a clinician, her enthusiasm and dedication empower patients, families, and community members with effective,
holistic, high quality care.