Todd Langus, Responding to the Responder
Todd Langus spent much of his life wearing a badge — from an 18-year-old in a police cadet uniform, to rising in the ranks as a SWAT member and field training officer.
In more than 20 years with the Garden Grove Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Department, he saw unimaginable things and endured severe injury serving the public, while also losing two partners in the line of duty.
Now, after earning a doctorate in psychology, Langus is on staff at the Champion Center, using his history and knowledge to treat police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, medical staff, military members and other victims of trauma who turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism and need help.
“It’s a specialized population from the standpoint that they don’t feel comfortable talking about the ugliness they’ve seen in a general (recovery) population for a couple reasons,” says Langus. “They don’t want to traumatize others and the general population doesn’t understand them. So they don’t get help, which means they get worse.”
That’s where the Champion Center comes in.
“We have 911 systems,” he explains. “You call 911 when you need police, fire or paramedics. But where’s the 911 for first responders? Who do they call? The Champion Center is kind of like their 911 line to help them.” Through the Heroes Program, the facility offers specialized treatment focusing on the recognition and understanding of the biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of addiction, and also places a strong emphasis on resolving and healing from traumatic work-related events and experiences unique to first responders.
“When they’re trained to repress emotion in the field to get the job done, that’s what they learn as a defense mechanism – a negative way of looking at something,” he says. “As a defense mechanism, I had to ‘numb out’ in the field. Now when I’m not in the field, how do I repress and numb out? With Alcohol and substances. And that’s when they start going down that slippery slope.”
Langus medically retired from law enforcement in 2006 and has been in practice in psychology since 2003. Because of his specialized training in trauma and PTSD, he has treated people after Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, as well as veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Langus recently gave a speech at the Champion Center about “Responding to the Responder.” He said it’s OK to ask for help. The mindset, he said, is “I’m weak if I’m in here (treatment) and need help. I have to do this on my own.”
He reminds those in uniform that intense situations on the streets, they call for back-up.
“How do you expect to save yourself,” he suggests. “Why not call for back-up? I use the job to help them get started functioning. Conventional treatment does not work. If you want to treat the (first responder) population, you have to get to know the population.”