Senate approves, sends Brooks’ mental health support bill to president
The U.S. Senate on Dec. 21 passed the bipartisan, bicameral Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) to support law enforcement officers through mental health services.
The measure now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the bill on Nov. 28.
With the Senate’s passage of the proposal, “our nation’s police officers are one step closer to receiving the necessary support and access to mental health services that will help them cope with the trauma they experience daily on the job,” said Rep. Brooks, a former United States attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
“I encourage the President to swiftly sign this bipartisan legislation into law because ensuring the safety of our police officers is critically important,” said the congresswoman, who introduced the measure on April 28.
Specifically, Brooks’ H.R. 2228 directs the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to report on mental health services and practices at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that could be used by law enforcement agencies, according to the bill’s summary.
Additionally, DOJ would be required to coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop educational resources that would help mental health providers better understand and help serve the mental health needs of law enforcement officers, according to the summary of the bill, which includes several other provisions.
U.S. Reps. Val Butler Demings (D-FL), Doug Collins (R-GA), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) signed on to Brooks’ bill as original cosponsors.
“It is our job to ensure that every law enforcement officer has the help and resources they need to effectively deal with stress and mental health challenges, so that our officers can continue to keep us all safe,” said Rep. Demings, a former police chief with 27 years of law enforcement experience.
Likewise, Rep. Reichert, who spent 33 years in law enforcement, said he knows “first-hand the importance of providing critical mental health and wellness services for our first responders. We have seen how these services help our military members, and now it is time that we provide the same help for those who serve us here at home.”
Rep. Collins said that he and his father, a former Georgia State Trooper, were excited the Senate passed Brooks’ bill.
“Congress is right to prioritize the unique wellness needs of the law enforcement community, who voluntarily enter dangerous, stressful situations for the sake of their neighbors each day,” said Collins.
Brooks’ Indiana colleagues, U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican, on April 6 introduced Senate companion legislation, S. 867, which the Senate passed on May 16. Donnelly and Young said in a joint statement they were pleased to see the bipartisan legislation heading to President Trump’s desk.
“Our law enforcement officers work every day to keep our families and communities safe and it’s important we ensure they have access to the mental health services they need to remain ready to serve,” the senators said.
Endorsements for Brooks’ bill came from a number of groups, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Association of Police Officers, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the National District Attorneys Association, among others.
Indiana State FOP President William Owensby said Brooks’ legislation “will enable the nation’s officers to help identify and treat issues that arise from the stresses of protecting the citizens of this great nation.”