Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by voice vote a bipartisan bill to improve mental health services for law enforcement officers.
The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 (H.R. 2228), introduced by Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), directs the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to develop resources to equip local law enforcement agencies to address mental health challenges faced by officers. The bill also makes grants available 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.
The 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States have one of the most stressful occupations in the world. 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. Many police departments have instituted mental health programs as preventative measures. These programs have had significant, successful results, such as a decrease in the number of police officer suicides.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Congresswoman Brooks applauded today’s Committee approval of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act in the statements below.
Chairman Goodlatte: “Our nation’s law enforcement officers have one of the toughest jobs in the nation. Every day, they risk their lives to keep the peace and protect our neighborhoods from criminals. Due to the stressful nature of their occupations, law enforcement officers need better access to mental health services to improve their health and help alleviate the anxiety that is a byproduct of their jobs. The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act provides a number of resources to help improve mental health services for police officers cross the country. I thank Congresswoman Brooks for her work on this bipartisan bill and call on the House to take it up without delay.”
Congresswoman Brooks: “Members of our law enforcement deal with the unthinkable daily when working to keep us safe, and face situations that can be hard to process and impossible to forget. It is imperative that these first responders and police officers, who risk being shot at on the job or experience disturbing and horrific scenes when responding to emergency calls, are better equipped to manage severe stress and anxiety that can arise when dealing with these situations.
“The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 supports law enforcement and helps provide resources to address serious mental health challenges officers face, such as depression and PTSD, as a result of their job. This bill also establishes peer mentoring programs because police officers are more likely to discuss the situations they face with their colleagues, as other police officers know first-hand how their jobs can impact their emotional wellbeing. I am proud to support our law enforcement agencies, mental health providers, and most importantly, our men and women in uniform for all they do in support of our communities. I look forward to this bill’s bipartisan support as it passes the House Judiciary Committee today and moves forward in the legislative process.”
The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Officers, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.