FBINAA - May 2022 catalog
Continued from "Suicide Data Collection", on page 10
LEGISLATION WILL FUND MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING PROGRAMS Although other organizations exist to honor the service of law enforcement officers who died by suicide, the LESDC is the only comprehensive government effort to specifically track sui - cides and attempted suicides in law enforcement. The program began with legislation introduced by Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and seven cosponsors. Senator Cortez Masto served as the attorney general of Nevada prior to becoming a senator and brought her passion for the safety and well-being of officers with her into her current office. Since the enactment of the LESDC Act in 2020, she has been a part of introducing other pieces of bipartisan legislation to further assist law enforcement in the area of mental health and well-being. On November 18, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Coun - seling Act into law. Sen. Cortez Masto and Sen. Chuck Grassley sponsored the act along with nine additional cosponsors. The act prohibits the disclosure of any communication that oc- curred during a counseling session with a federal law enforce - ment officer to anyone not involved in the session (barring any mention of criminal misconduct or explicit threats). This removes some of the stigma involved with seeking help. In the past, officers may have feared that asking for help would make them seem weak or that they would lose their badges and guns if they admitted to needing help. This act gives federal officers the privacy they need to deal with their mental health without the fear of repercussion. The COPS Act also mandates that the U.S. Attorney General support and encourage the implementation of peer-support counseling programs in first responder agencies. This will be accomplished by developing a report on the best practices and professional standards for programs of peer support counseling. By November 2023, the U.S. Attorney General will also provide a list of training programs for peer support specialists on the Department of Justice website. New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer introduced the Invest to Protect Act of 2022 on the House floor in January 2022 with 54 cosponsors. Senators Cortez Masto and Grassley along with two additional cosponsors introduced the same bill on the Senate floor in March 2022. If signed into law, this act would provide $250 million over the course of five years in funding to agencies across the country with fewer than 200 officers. The money would be available through a grant program that would provide funding for mental health resources, training, and some equipment. Clearly, the federal government is not overlooking the mental health crisis in the law enforcement community. Govern - ment leaders are introducing bipartisan legislation to assist law enforcement by providing both the funding needed to pay for mental health, as well as establishing best practices and stan - dards for mental health and wellness programs. In a statement regarding the LESDC, Sen. Cortez Masto said, “This valuable data could be used to inform policy solutions that will prioritize mental health intervention and decrease law enforcement suicides. These officers deserve our support, and I will keep fighting to provide resources and programs to protect our law enforcement officers’ mental health and wellness.”
AGENCY PARTICIPATION MAKES CHANGE POSSIBLE Some agencies across the country are implementing men- tal health programs, but unfortunately, many agencies simply cannot afford the additional cost of these programs or the staff to operate them. For those agencies, programs like the LESDC are invaluable. These programs produce real data that translates into real help. Not only does the LESDC allow agency leaders to see the need for mental health and wellness programs, but it also supplies legislators with the data needed to justify funding them. Submitting incident information to the LESDC is volun- tary, but the collection’s success relies on agency participation. Privacy has been a concern for some agencies, but the LESDC Act requires the highest level of privacy. The information gathered does not directly identify the officer involved in any way, and no information about the involved agency will be released. Privacy regarding each incident has remained a top priority throughout the program’s development. The LESDC began accepting incident submissions on Janu- ary 1, 2022, and at this time, agency submissions account for only a small number of the actual incidents. The LESDC needs the support of more law enforcement leaders. The information that has been reported thus far has been eye opening. The submis- sions received through the LESDC have given a significant picture of what was happening in the life of the officer at the time of the incident. This information can be used to help develop “real-life” curriculum for mental health and wellness training. The LESDC confirms the need for help and has the poten - tial to bring change. Legislators are on board and are ready to act. As participation levels rise, the data will be more complete, and legislators will have a clearer picture of how and where to allocate the funding. Participation in the LESDC can ultimately make mental health training and wellness programs available to agencies across the country. If an agency representative does not have a LEEP account, they may request one at www.cjis.gov . For more information about the LESDC, call 304.625.5370 or email LESDC@fbi.gov .
About the Author: Zach Lilly served as a police officer for 8 years before moving into his current role as a writer- editor in the Law Enforcement Engagement Unit at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, WV. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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