Val Demings, Susan Brooks Want Feds to Help Local Law Enforcement With Mental Health Support
Freshman U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., is backing a proposal to have the federal government offer more support to local governments to help law enforcement officers with mental health issues.
At the end of last week, Demings teamed up with Republican U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Doug Collins of Georgia and Dave Recihert of Washington and New Jersey Democrat U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell to bring out the “Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act.” The proposal would have the federal Justice, Defense and VA Departments “develop resources to equip local law enforcement agencies to address mental health challenges faced by officers” and creates grants to “initiate peer mentoring pilot programs, develop training for mental health providers specific to law enforcement mental health needs, and support law enforcement officers by studying the effectiveness of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks.”
Demings, who served as Orlando police chief, made the case for why the bill was needed and cited her own experiences in law enforcement.
"Our law enforcement officers are called to some of the most horrific situations and step into harm's way to protect of us every day," said Demings. "As chief of police, I made it a priority to talk to my police officers, to understand and know what they were dealing with on the streets. We should do what we can to take care of them, so they are always prepared to take care of us."
“Members of our law enforcement put themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities every day,” Brooks said. “Our officers deal with the unthinkable and daily face situations that can be hard to process and impossible to forget. They need the training and resources to protect their own emotional and mental wellbeing in these situations. This bill provides law enforcement officers with the skills to handle the stress and anxiety associated with their job as well as the resources to address serious mental health challenges that may arise like depression and PTSD. I am proud to support our law enforcement agencies, mental health providers and most importantly, our men and women in blue.”
The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee last week.
Indiana’s two senators--Republican Todd Young and Democrat Joe Donnelly--filed the companion bill in the Senate earlier this month.
A host of groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Association of Police Officers (NAPO), the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA) and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) are backing the legislation.
"Our officers wear protective clothing and other equipment to keep themselves safe from physical harm, but these officers also face challenges to their mental health and well-being. Unlike many other professions, sometimes you can't leave the job at the office,” said Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the FOP in support of the legislation.