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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahomans who work to protect and serve the community will soon have more resources to protect their mental health.

Senate Bill 1613 directs the Department of Public Safety to establish and maintain a mental wellness division within the agency to provide mental health services and programs to public safety personnel and their families.

“This legislation is the result of months of meetings with the state’s top public safety officials and law enforcement officers from around the state on how we can boost recruitment and retention. Having better access to mental health care was one of their main requests given the mental toll this line of work has on officers and their families,” Sen. Kim David, R-Porter said. “This new division will provide the necessary support and resources for our state’s heroes and their loved ones dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, and mental exhaustion. I’m so proud and grateful for everyone’s support of this critical legislation to show these brave men and women we truly have their backs, and always will.”

SB 1613 will authorize the division to enter into public/private partnerships for services and will also establish a revolving fund and a not-for-profit foundation for fundraising.

“The state-of-the-art mental wellness center we are hoping to build and fund through this legislation is needed by our heroes who serve in Oklahoma law enforcement,” House Majority Leader Jon Echols said. “Those who work to keep us safe deserve all the care we can provide, particularly considering all that they see and experience on the front lines.”

According to numerous studies, public safety officers and other first responders suffer from much higher rates of PTSD, suicide, divorce, depression, and addiction than the general public.

A 2018 National Fraternal Order of Police study reported that more than 16% of officers have had suicidal thoughts, over 65% have sleep problems or disorders and nearly 61% have intrusive or unwanted memories, including images, sounds and smells from the traumas they witness.

The new law will go into effect 90 days after Sine Die adjournment.