Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (H.R. 2228).
Chairman Goodlatte: Today, over 900,000 men and women serve as sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. Each day, they report for duty to serve and protect the American people. Each day, they put their lives on the line, and are tasked with handling some of the most challenging, high-stress situations one can imagine. We admire them for their strength, bravery, and resilience, and are grateful that we can go about our days feeling safe, because we have law enforcement officers who will put themselves in harm’s way for us.
We rarely think, however, about how they feel after their high-stress encounters. Extreme stress can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. Research has shown time and again that police officer occupational stress is directly related to higher rates of heart disease, divorce, sick days taken, alcohol abuse, and major psychological illnesses such as acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Each year, more law enforcement officers die from suicide than from gunfire and traffic accidents combined. We must acknowledge and address this issue.
H.R. 2228, the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act, is an important, bipartisan step in ensuring law enforcement agencies have the resources to treat severe mental and physical stress. I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for uniting in support of our men and women in blue.
The bill 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 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 efficacious.
We all recognize the profound challenges faced by law enforcement in this country. We also need to acknowledge the toll that emotional trauma can take on the mental and physical health of these brave men and women.
One thing that has been brought to our attention in the last day is the need for clarification as to the timing requirements with respect to Section 4 of the bill. We would be happy to work with law enforcement groups to clarify this provision as the bill proceeds to the floor.
I urge my colleagues to support HR 2228.
For more on today’s markup, click here.