As a member of the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) for 24 years, Tim Dupin has always known the risks and rewards that come with the profession.
“I became a firefighter because I thought it was an exciting opportunity and meaningful career,” said Dupin, who currently is a KCFD Fire Captain assigned to Station 36 on Pumper 36. “To have been chosen to serve the citizens of Kansas City is one of the greatest accomplishments in my life.”
The lifelong resident of Kansas City became more than a firefighter following a tragic moment in the line of duty in 2015. At this moment, he became a leader that is impacting many fellow emergency responders today.
On that fateful October day, KCFD Fire Fighter John Mesh and Fire Apparatus Operator Larry Leggio lost their lives fighting a fire in Northeast Kansas City when the building collapsed.
The trauma and grief of that incident required counseling services for many members of the department. The need was so great, fire departments across the United States and Canada offered services to assist.
“These two men gave their lives in service to their community under my watch,” Dupin said. “The death of these co-workers and friends, and the subsequent grief, affected me and many members of the KCFD to our core.”
Tim felt a calling deep inside to help his friends and colleagues when they needed it most. The awakening of this great need propelled Dupin and others to launch the formation of 42 C.A.R.E.S., a 501(c)3 organization providing counseling and resources to prevent or lessen the impact of PTSI* for firefighters and emergency medical service professionals. It is under the guidance of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 42, which represents over 1,800 members in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
“The program provides a clinic and our own Behavioral Health Director and clinician to assist with counseling, assessment, resiliency and education,” Dupin said, who is a Founding Member and current Board President of 42 C.A.R.E.S. “We are also an advocate to assist with behavioral health support and crisis intervention.”
The organization manages an Employee Assistance Program in partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City.
Dupin said the impact of this program is only getting stronger. “This past year has been particularly challenging with the loss of three members of the KCFD to COVID-19 exposure.”
For Dupin, it took a life-changing incident to make him address his own mortality. He credits the professional assistance received during a high-stress time in his life for making a positive influence that still lasts today.
His story, though, is not one just for firefighters. He says anyone who is struggling with an issue should ask for help.
“If you are suffering from PTSI or other behavioral health issues, it is okay to seek out assistance. There are professionals who understand the issues you may be facing at this point in your life.”
This is important advice from a man who is using his personal experiences to improve the quality of life for others. Blue KC is proud to partner with the Kansas City Royals to honor Tim Dupin as a “Blue KC Hometown Hero”. Tim will be recognized at the Kansas City Royals game on Friday, June 4.
*PTSI and PTSD are not the same and knowing the difference is important when determining the best path for healing. PTSD is defined as a psychiatric disorder that can happen in people who have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Essentially, PTSI is the alternate name – Post-Traumatic Stress Injury – and refers to the same set of symptoms. The main differences are the conceptualization of what caused the symptoms. PTSD refers to a disorder, while PTSI refers to a biological injury. There is a division in the nervous system, which is likely to play the dominant role in developing and maintaining PTSI. PTSI is a biological trauma and researchers cite the physical changes that happen in the nervous system with this condition. Mental health experts have already understood and acknowledged physical changes with PTSD, and some argue that changing the name would also change people’s perception of the condition and lessen the stigma with which it is associated.