Program focuses on first responders dealing with addiction

first responders addiction
Philadelphia Fire Department

There are different paths to the Livengrin Foundation’s First Responders Addiction Treatment program.

Some participants are on leave. Others recently lost their job. A few are legally mandated to participate.

“This is probably the only program in the world where we’ll pick up a veteran from prison, bring him here, and he’ll sit next to a corrections officer and somehow it works,” said Bryan McCauley, director of the program, known as FRAT.

Livengrin, the Bucks County-based addiction treatment center, runs a 28-day residential program for current and former police officers, military veterans, firefighters and EMTs at its Bensalem campus.

Patients – usually 12 or so per cycle – begin each day at 9 a.m. with educational and group therapy sessions, followed by lunch and additional sessions. On Wednesdays, they do equine therapy at a horse farm in Blue Bell.

“We don’t talk a lot about putting the drink and drug down; we talk about how to fix our living problems, our self-defeating behaviors, stuff like that,” McCauley told Metro.

Nate Willison

Patients can remain involved after leaving Livengrin, either through three-day-a-week sessions or as peer support specialists. Those volunteers, first responders who have been through FRAT themselves, are the backbone of the program, McCauley said.

McCauley, a former law enforcement officer, entered Livengrin to get sober in 2010, a year before FRAT was founded.

“The trauma that is seen by the first responder and veteran is sort of different than other traumas that maybe some of the general community patients have,” he said.

“We typically cope with the stress and anxiety and trauma of the job with alcohol and sometimes that alcohol coping mechanism gets out of control,” McCauley added. “The other thing that you see a lot in our program is people that are injured on the job then they’re prescribed or over-prescribed pain medication, and then they develop an addiction as a result.”

For more information about FRAT, visit and select the First Responders Program under the “specialities” tab.