HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has invested in mental health with the help of a service dog.
With a business card and even an e-mail address, it’s official, 4-year-old Mason Star is part of the team.
“This dog is so amazing,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "The vigorous training he’s gone through, he has the sense of when an employee has some type of anxiety episode or is facing some type of traumatic event, he senses it and will go sit next to that employee.”
Mason Star started off as a service dog for a veteran.
“A dog can help a veteran with really severe post-traumatic stress in ways that no one ever knew was possible,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors.
He was so good at comforting and helping them cope, the veteran gave him back to K9s for Warriors because they recognized Mason Star’s amazing work could go to someone who needs it more.
“We looked around and saw a national crisis of mental health with our sheriff's deputies, our police officers in our first responders,” said Diamond.
He said they have now placed 7 retired veteran service dogs in stations and have 11 on the waitlist, which will bring them to 2025.
“The need outweighs the resource,” Sheriff Chronister said.
It’s why he feels fortunate Mason Star was placed with them.
He’ll start off in the communications center and help employees who are the first to answer someone's desperate call for help. Then they’ll start to move him around to other departments.
Diamond says first responders have a different type of PTSD where they experience potential trauma every day over their entire career.
“That’s what we call cumulative post-traumatic stress,” he said. “Where it’s a little bit at a time which then creates a mental health problem.”
Sheriff Chronister is confident Mason Star will help save lives. His official start date is bright and early Monday, Sept. 6, where he’ll begin to get acclimated at the station.
Employees can e-mail Mason Star to schedule meetings with him at MessageMason@teamHCSO.com