Laurie Lombardo: Helps strangers during tragic times
Elizabeth Marie Himchak
When there is a death — natural, suicide, murder or accident; kidnapping; missing person or other emotionally challenging event in the City of San Diego, Rancho Bernardan Laurie Lombardo might be called upon by police to assist survivors in the first few hours.
For the past 11 years Lombardo has volunteered as a crisis interventionist. Five years ago she took on the additional duties of crisis dispatcher and three years ago also became one of the San Diego Police Department Crisis Intervention program’s two development managers. For the latter, the duo train new volunteers in a 100-hour program taught two or three times a year.
“I heard about (crisis intervention) on the news and it sounded like something I’d like to do,” Lombardo said. “I’ve always done a lot of volunteer work.”
That other volunteerism includes being a volunteer ski patroller at Snow Valley Mountain Resort for the past 16 years. “I help when injured guests fall or get hurt,” she said.
While those she helps through crisis intervention do not have a physical pain, in those initial hours they are undergoing emotional pain. Assistance varies, depending on the circumstances. Since most people do not know what to do when a loved one just died and are often not thinking clearly, Lombardo said an interventionist’s duties could include contacting a mortuary or relatives, explaining the medical examiner process — if an autopsy needs to be performed, staying until other friends or relatives arrive, and providing resources and referrals.
By doing this service, Lombardo said police officers can leave the residence and go back out into the field.
“We’re the emotional support for the family,” she said.
“I’ve heard this sounds depressing, and they are all very sad situations — some disturbing, but what I get out of it is knowing I am there for someone in my community during one of the worst times in their life,” she said. “Knowing I am there to help feels good. I hope that if something happened to me or my family, someone would be there.”
Lombardo said she chose this volunteer program over other options because “it’s a dynamic opportunity to provide critical support for someone facing a traumatic situation and assist law enforcement in meeting the needs of the community.
“The added bonus for us, as members of crisis intervention, is that we forge an indelible bond and what we give to the community we also give to each other.”
Crisis interventionists agree to be on call 20 hours per month. Sometimes they will be called upon more than once during a shift, other times not at all. Whether one is dispatched is determined by police.
Lombardo said retirees often take a day shift, while she as a compliance analysis for a mortgage company takes overnight or weekend shifts. Depending upon circumstance, when called the interventionist could stay on site for up to 10 hours, though the average call is for three or four hours.
Due to her availability at the time, Lombardo said she volunteered many more hours in the days following the 2007 wildfires. She was there for those utilizing services at the recovery center set up at Rancho Bernardo-Glassman Recreation Center.
“It would suddenly hit them about what happened and they would breakdown, want to talk or just sit away from everyone,” she said. “I was there to listen, gave stuffed animals to the kids and to some adults.”
She also assisted the King family while authorities searched for 17-year-old Chelsea, who disappeared while on a run on a Rancho Bernardo trail in 2010.
Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of their work, Lombardo said not all who apply to the program are chosen. The minimum requirements are 21 or older; with a good driving record, valid California drivers license and personal vehicle with insurance; no felony convictions or currently on probation and pass a police background check.
In addition, the person must communicate well with others, be dependable and have the time to volunteer 20 hours per month.
“We look for people with good discretion, because some of the stuff we see is confidential,” Lombardo said. “We look for people who can think outside the box and have analytical skills because we can’t write a manual that covers everything (we encounter).”
She also said crisis interventionists must have empathy, but not be too sympathetic in order to not get emotionally drawn into the situation and must be non judgmental.
“It is not our place to judge how a family lives or their religious beliefs,” she said.
While training is free, volunteers must pay for their uniform and vehicle’s gasoline. They are dispatched anywhere in the city — as far north as San Pasqual to as far south as the international border. Their expenses might be tax deductible.
The application process takes a few months. The next training academy will be in October. To apply, call 619-446-1014.
No related posts.
Short URL: http://www.pomeradonews.com/?p=26265