• BACKING the BADGE» Detail
  • TRAINING RESOURCES BY First Responders FOR First Responders!» Detail
  • Welcome to the new BACKING the BADGE Website» Detail
  • BACKING the BADGE is a Division of ENCOMPASS, LLC» Detail
  • BACKING the BADGE Now Offering Services for Police, Fire, and Medics» Detail

About Us

  Gary Bush – Executive Director and Co-Founder of BACKING the BADGE

Gary is an honorably discharged U.S. Army Military Police veteran. After his discharge, he spent over 30 years as a sworn law enforcement officer in the State of Florida. He helped design and implement “BACKING the BADGE” as a much needed service to law enforcement officers around the country. Additionally, he is a Certified Life Coach, Certified Solution Focused Coach, and Certified Transformational Coach. He has also completed both the Individual and Group CISM course.

  Sara Eklove, LMSW – Executive Director of Encompass

Sara received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Western Michigan University and has over fifteen years of experience in a variety of social work settings. As head of BACKING the BADGES’ Local Law Enforcement Support Team, Sara has developed and delivered initiatives designed to provide specific support to law enforcement customers.

  Jessi Zielinski, LMSW – Professional Support Consultant

Jessi is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who works as a Clinical Consultant with ENCOMPASS Employee Assistance & WorkLife Services. Jessi’s interests include working with adolescents and providing training to organizations on topics such as stress management, conflict resolution, communication and the importance of creating work/life balance.

  Kate Strong - Professional Support Consultant

Kate received her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and followed it into a career as a police officer, where she ultimately became a Community Policing Specialist at Grand Rapids Police Department. While working with BACKING the BADGE, she transitioned to the private sector and joined the ENCOMPASS team. Kate acts as a liaison with current and future client companies, where she assists them in optimizing their utilization of benefits. She also conducts trainings, orientations, and debriefings for both ENCOMPASS and BACKING the BADGE. She enjoys working with BACKING the BADGE because it allows her to fulfill her passion for helping first responders.

  Alison Brown, PhD, LMSW –  Co-Founder of BACKING the BADGE

Alison is co-founder of ENCOMPASS and co-founder of BACKING the BADGE. Alison’s background includes counseling in private practice as well as specializing in substance abuse education, diagnosis and treatment. Alison holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Leadership Development.

   Bart Perry – Peer Member and Professional Support Consultant

As a former Firefighter, Battalion Chief and major proponent of a local CISM team, Bart brings his twenty plus years of experience as a department and Critical Incident leader.  His passion for supporting first responders has brought him to the Backing the Badge team and he is currently offering individual peer support and organizational consultations. He is a graduate of Davenport College, the National Fire Academy and maintains certifications as a Paramedic & EMS Instructor Coordinator. Chief Perry is recently retired after 31 years 5 months of service with the Grand Rapids Fire Department.

  Dennis Potter, LMSW, FAAETS – Professional Support Consultant

Dennis has an extensive background of over 30 years in the field of behavioral health, critical incident stress management, and crisis intervention. For many years he has done extensive work with law enforcement and other first responders. Dennis is a certified ICISF instructor, and was awarded the ICISF Excellence in Training and Education Award in 2011. He has provided CISM training both in the U.S. and internationally. He is a published author and has presented at numerous local, state, national, and international conferences.

  Michele Kimmel-Fors, MA – Executive Director, COMPASS 

Michele is the Executive Director for COMPASS Consulting, a branch of ENCOMPASS. COMPASS provides objective, confidential services assisting organizations to proactively manage culture, organizational change and work-place challenges. Michele holds a master’s degree in education with over 20 years’ experience in management.

  Mike Ohren, LMSW – Professional Support Consultant

Michael is an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran and holds a Master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Michigan. Mike has provided numerous trainings to law enforcement and work organizations including the development of Peer Support tools, information and resources.

  Jim Bottenhorn, MA, LLP – Professional Support Consultant

Jim has over thirty years experience in the mental health field as a behavioral health therapist and hospital administrator. He has served on various CISM teams since 1990 and has sixteen years experience as an EAP consultant. Mr. Bottenhorn has served on management teams of two psychiatric hospitals and has worked in the private, not-for-profit and public sectors in a variety of positions in the behavioral health sector.  He maintains a private psychotherapy and consulting practice in which he utilizes new biofeedback technologies that measure Heart Rate Variability to assist clients in building resiliency skills. He is a charter member of the Healthy Kent Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Ottawa Co. Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition.  He has extensive training experience in the areas of suicide prevention, anger and stress management and is an authorized trainer of QPR, Question, Persuade, Refer and Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk: Core Competencies for Mental Health Professionals.  Audiences have included police, fire fighters, mental health professionals, nurses, VA clinicians and teachers. 

  Steve Darling, MA – Professional Support Consultant

Steve Darling retired from the Michigan State Police in 2013. He worked at several locations throughout the State of Michigan in different capacities including 8 years with Behavioral Science as a law enforcement counselor. After retirement, Steve was hired as a consultant to assist in re-organizing a security department for a large healthcare corporation. After this was completed, Steve was hired as the Security Manager. Steve’s passion for working with police officers and their families drew him back to the counseling profession. Steve holds a Master of Arts Degree in Counseling from Western Michigan University.

  Cathy Fitzgerald, MSA, BS, AA – Professional Support Consultant

Cathy Fitzgerald has worked in Law Enforcement since 1987 and has served in various capacities in both uniform and undercover operations. In addition to serving in various trainer and/or instructor positions during her career, she holds a special designation of Professional Emergency Manager for the State of Michigan. Cathy holds an M.S.A. Degree in Human Resource Administration and has a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration from Central Michigan University, a B.S. Degree in Criminal Justice/Conservation Law Enforcement and an A.A. Degree in National Resource Technology from Lake Superior State University College. Currently, Cathy also serves as an Adjunct Instructor for Jackson College.

Chuck Watson, MSW - Professional Support Consultant

After over 30 years at Hamtramck Fire Department, Chuck retired in 2006 at the rank of Fire Lieutenant. He returned to Wayne State University and in 2014, successfully completed his Master’s in Social Work. He has been involved in crisis intervention since 1990 with both first responders and community teams. Chuck is available to see clients in our Lansing office.

Patty Espinoza, LLP - Professional Support Consultant

Patty Espinoza has a Master’s Degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.  She has over 10 years of clinical experience including individual, family and couples.  She offers a full range of services to adults and adolescents.  Services include psychotherapy and assessment for issues such as anxiety, depression, and trauma, relationship problems, parenting concerns, personal growth and developments, career challenges, grief and anger management.  She believes that each of us has everything we need to be happy inside ourselves: we just need support to help us realize our true potential.  Patty sees clients in Traverse City.  

  Carolyn Ehnis, LMSW - Professional Support Consultant

Carolyn received her Master’s Degree of Social Work from Wayne State University and has 30 years of experience in the mental health/substance abuse field. She also has a private counseling practice and is an EAP consultant. Carolyn has served on various critical incident and crisis management teams since 1991 which included auto manufacturers, telecommunication groups and police, fire and public safety departments. Carolyn sees clients in Lansing.

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