Bill to address mental health needs of law enforcement officers signed

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that works to address the mental health needs of law enforcement officers and other first responders is now law.

Sen. Kim David authored Senate Bill 848, which directs the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to contract with public and private entities to provide peer support crisis intervention, counseling, and wellness for the law enforcement, firefighter, emergency medical, and corrections communities impacted by trauma, cumulative stress, anxiety, addictions, death and suicide as well as the impact on their personal lives.

“Our law enforcement officers, fire fighters and other first responders face constant traumatic situations that we cannot even fathom—events that impact them mentally and emotionally,” David said. “This bill is aimed at destigmatizing mental health treatment for these brave public servants, so they don’t suffer in silence. They have selflessly dedicated their lives to protecting the public, and we owe it to them and their families to protect them as well and that includes their mental health. “

Sen. David says the bill came about after listening to public safety officers’ stories during an interim study.

The interim study included testimony from law enforcement officers from various agencies around the state as well as mental health experts who pointed out that public safety officers and other first responders suffer from much higher rates of PTSD, suicide, divorce, depression and addiction than the public.

Many officers, however, do not seek help.

“Peer support crisis intervention truly saves lives. It’s one thing to talk to a counselor who learned about trauma in a book, but studies have shown that talking to a coworker or peer who has experienced the same types of trauma is much more powerful for these officers and emergency responders,” David said. “This public/private partnership will provide grants to ensure these courageous men and women have access to the mental health services they need so we don’t lose them to mental fatigue, burnout or worse.”

SB 848 was signed into law on Tuesday.

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