A Letter from Our Founder

Doctor Stephen Odom

I have been a healthcare provider and leader for the past 30 years. I’ve worked in large not for profit healthcare systems managing behavioral health and addiction treatment services, consulting in emergency rooms and medical floors and, providing direct care. When I was leading and providing services in the dual diagnosis program at El Camino hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area I had the opportunity to begin working with nurses in treatment. It was transformative for me to see them as both colleagues and as patients. Observing how they had a difficult time transitioning from being the nurse to being the patient and how that need to help others never went away. By creating a nurses only program we were able to create a safe space for these healers to drop their defenses and do the work of recovery. Since then I have created programs specifically for physicians and other professionals and began building a first responder program 12 years ago. While running all the behavioral health addiction services at Hoag Hospital in Southern California, we were able to begin serving a large law enforcement department but weren’t able to separate the LEO population completely from the other patients. Time after time, the officer/patient shut down in group because they couldn’t relate to the other participants. The need for first responder only care became ever more clear in my mind. I created Simple Recovery in 2012 and spent 6 years building our services to focus on First Responder Only treatment. In 2018, First Responder Wellness was born.

The underlying concept for first responder treatment is based on years of experience treating those who are the healers, the helpers and the public servants on the front lines; when they get help in an environment where the only other patients are just like them, the walls come down and the healing happens sooner. These special heroes have a place where their unique careers are no longer a defense against looking inside because everyone else in the room is a special hero too.

My interest in working with first responders is born of my family background. My father served in Vietnam as an army physician. When he returned, he opened a “drug free clinic” to help those who had suffered from PTSD and addiction in the early 1970s. David Smith, the founder of the Haight Ashbury clinics in San Francisco, flew out and trained my dad on detox protocols and stayed in our home when I was a little kid. My father’s oldest brother – my uncle – was career army and served as the director of the NSA and retired as a Major General. His son – my cousin – recently retired as a Brigadier General and was the regimental commander of the Rangers. My step brother was a DEA agent, and we have a former police chief, and a few volunteer firefighters, too. The rest of my family is comprised of health care providers and educators; physicians, psychologists, teachers and administrators. Our dinner table and reunion conversations have often focused on the need to provide help for the helpers and first responders.

Having a deep and comprehensive knowledge of how to best provide behavioral health treatment services over the course of a few decades has prepared me to bring my very best to first responder only treatment. There is certainly something noble and necessary in our desire to address the very real mental health and addiction problems that permeate the public safety profession. The risks taken, the tragedies witnessed and the relentless need for presence around the clock create the recipe that results in post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and the need to self-medicate with alcohol, substances, and many other unhealthy behaviors. We have built a program that also understands the effects of a public safety career on the family and address the entire system so healing can begin. Please contact us – we know how to help.

Stephen Odom PhD, MFT
Founder // Chief Clinical Officer


police officer at a crime scene
first responder flag
first responders place a patient on a stretcher

First Responder Wellness understands the need to treat sensitive issues in a setting that is conducive to creating and holding trust and confidentiality. Our programs exclusively treat First Responders, so from the moment treatment begins, our patients know they are with others who have lived and experienced the same life.

Our professional treatment team is composed of culturally competent clinicians who have extensive experience working with First Responders and their families. Some have even been first responders earlier in their careers, while others come from first responder and military family backgrounds.

It’s about the Trauma:
Using alcohol and other substances as a means of coping with post-traumatic stress is common. Sometimes this turns into addiction. Our program effectively treats both addiction and mental health.

First responders put themselves on the front lines of responding to crises and emergencies every day. Dealing with stress and trauma is a part of the job. Unfortunately, repeated exposure to highly stressful and traumatic situations is known to impact mental health and wellbeing in a myriad of ways. While the average civilian can experience a few traumatic events in their lifetime, first responders become accustomed to acute trauma, causing both physical and emotional exhaustion of the body and mind.

First Responder Wellness provides trauma-based substance abuse and mental health treatment designed by our experienced, culturally competent team. Our comprehensive curriculum integrates substance abuse treatment with post- traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression treatment, as well as incorporating family systems support. Our program was designed to help patients recover from trauma while increasing their overall well-being. We offer sobriety tools and healthy coping mechanisms to ensure a safe transition back to their careers and personal lives.