ServiceNet’s Jim Frutkin Brings Years of Experience to Work Supporting First Responders and other Clinicians
Jim Frutkin, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at ServiceNet, brings 34 years of experience in clinical mental health to his daily work supporting innovative mental health and human services here in western Massachusetts and across the Commonwealth. His early experience in crisis intervention has also led him to help support first responders struggling with the aftermath of traumatic events.
In the time before 24-hour mental health crisis hotlines existed in Massachusetts, ServiceNet (then known as Valley Programs) became one of the first agencies to create agreements with insurers and key medical providers to offer emergency crisis counseling. Answering calls at all hours of the day and night, Jim would assist people in various states of extreme distress and trauma.
Because of his experience in this emergency crisis work, when the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred in 2012, Jim was brought in to assist with supporting the first responders, who were struggling to cope with the aftermath.
“As a group, I felt that these folks didn’t need me to lecture them about trauma,” Jim says. “I saw that what they needed most was to lean into their own resilience through peer support. So, I had them count off and form small groups. They all knew each other closely. They knew each other’s spouses, children, and friends, so they would know if someone in their group was not themselves. If so, I told them to check in with them and call me. We had clinicians available 24/7. For weeks I was talking with them and working around the clock, offering anything they needed as they supported each other through their trauma and grief.”
Jim later presented his work with these first responders at a meeting of the Leaders in Community Health Solutions (MHCA), formerly known as Mental Health Corporations of America, a national group of prestigious behavioral health organizations. When the school shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida in 2018, Jim was contacted by another member of MHCA. This member’s team was working with the first responders there and asked Jim to offer peer support and advice to their clinicians.
“It was intensive work,” Jim says of the consulting. “I was on the phone every day with them or online every day trying to answer any questions, listen, and just be supportive or helpful in any way.”
When the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas occurred, Jim was again tapped as a consulting resource. Jim recognizes that many people who are not directly affected may also need support as they grapple with their own feelings and grief around these events. He urges people who may be struggling to reach out to their family, friends, or others in their support system. “Don’t think you have to do it alone. Learn what professional resources are in your area, and don’t hesitate to use them,” he says.
Jim appreciates how ServiceNet’s mission, values, and community have allowed him to become a resource in this way, and to help do meaningful work.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to try to be helpful,” Jim says. “Over the decades, our hard-working, dedicated staff have helped us accomplish the things we have done, that allow you to be in a situation where people know and respect you and you are able to offer your help. ServiceNet is about support. And we succeed at that because of the people here.”