Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (H.R. 2228).
Chairman Goodlatte: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Today we are voting on H.R. 2228, the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act. This bill is designed to equip local law enforcement agencies with information and resources to address mental health challenges faced by officers.
Our policemen and women report for duty every day, facing and responding to danger on our behalf. We often see them, and we always appreciate them. However, we often don’t consider the mental aspect of the challenges facing our officers, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities.
Today, we consider the toll their jobs take on their psychological well-being. Every day, these brave men and women face some of the highest-stress situations one can imagine. When officers hang up their badges at the end of a shift, they cannot easily hang up the lingering effects of their high-stakes encounters. As this stress accumulates, it can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. Research has shown time and again that police officer occupational stress is directly correlated to heart disease, divorce, alcohol abuse, and major psychological illnesses including acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders.
Over 900,000 men and women serve as sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. Each year, more of them die from suicide than from gunfire and traffic accidents combined. Many departments have started mental health programs as preventative measures. These programs have been successful in reducing the number of police officer suicides from 300 in 1998 to 126 in 2012. But in departments where mental health and wellness programs remain absent, these problems continue. We must address this gap.
H.R. 2228 directs the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, to equip local law enforcement agencies to address mental health challenges faced by police officers. It also permits DOJ’s office of Community-Oriented Policing Services to award grants to peer-mentoring pilot programs, and directs the Attorney General to make recommendations on how to make these and other programs more effective.
Mr. Speaker, we all recognize the profound challenges faced by law enforcement in this country. Today, we also acknowledge the unseen toll that these challenges can take on the health of these brave men and women.
I would like to thank Ms. Brooks of Indiana for introducing this bill and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for this important step in providing law enforcement agencies with the resources to treat severe mental and physical stress. Our men and women in blue deserve the appreciation and support of all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.