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A group of about 17 Chattanooga police officers started their shift early Wednesday morning at Hospice of Chattanooga for a "front porch lineup" and to learn about the free resources hospice offers to the community.

Front porch lineups were implemented in 2016 to help bring police and the community closer together. Individuals or businesses can host a lineup, which is a briefing session for officers starting their shifts.

Grief counseling

For information about Hospice of Chattanooga’s bereavement and grief care team, call Susan Latta at 423-892-4289.

 

So on Wednesday, the officers, all part of the department's Charlie sector — which encompasses the airport, Eastgate Town Center, East Brainerd and Ooltewah — lined up against a meeting room wall and listened closely to their sergeants.

They were briefed on what happened the night before and the goings on for the day ahead and received some strict housekeeping orders about their timecards and workflow.

Then, Hospice of Chattanooga leaders took the floor and explained the services the organization provides. Specifically, they spoke about grief counseling, which is offered free to anyone — regardless of whether they've received hospice care — who has experienced loss, whether it's death, divorce or abandonment.

"I know you encounter people all the time that have experienced [loss]," Susan Latta, director of grief services, told the officers. "You can refer them to Hospice of Chattanooga."

Counselors speak with those who are grieving and help them decide whether they want individualized counseling or if they'd rather be in a group setting. Counseling services are provided for children, too, and bilingual services for Spanish speakers.

"That door is open, and we've been able to really be there for people who have lost someone through tragedy," said Donna Rosado, a bilingual grief counselor.

Counselors have also received referrals from people in drug court, she said.

"A lot of times, people find themselves in legal trouble because their grief was never really channeled in the right direction," said Tracy Wood, president and CEO of Hospice of Chattanooga.

But some people are "really invested in their own sobriety, to the point where they want to work on their loss that may have happened 10 years ago," Rosado said.

That's why Wood said she wanted to make sure police officers are aware of the services provided by the organization, so they can help connect those who need it most.

Lt. Shawn Hickey, who was at the lineup, said knowing about the services hospice provides is a "great tool to put into our tool belt."

"Counseling ... is the most important part for families to be able to get back to where they used to be," he said.

The hospice organization, which has been operating in Chattanooga for 40 years, offered grief counseling services to more than 1,700 people last year, some of whom are families or friends of homicide victims. This year, the organization is on track to double the number of people served, Tracy Wood said.

"Grief can affect us emotionally, psychologically," Rosado said. "We're here for a purpose. We're hoping that we can make an impact on the families we work with."

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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