KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Law enforcement agencies across the nation are rejoicing after an important piece of legislation regarding first-responder mental health passed through the House and Senate.
The Police Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 is on the president’s desk, waiting to be signed into law. It’s a measure that’s designed to expand mental health resources for police officers.
“The accumulative stress of this job is incredible," said Brad Lemon, president of the Kansas City chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. "How many people -- Just today we’ve had two dead bodies that police officers have had to respond to. We respond to every single child death."
He's grateful the government is finally trying to help officers deal with those stressful incidents.
“Men and women are struggling doing a job that others wouldn’t even understand," Lemon said. "I’m thankful that the United States government and that our own state government are finally taking a stance and trying to fix some of these things."
Through this bill, services like confidential counseling and more peer-to-peer support opportunities will be made more readily available to first-responders.
The National Fraternal Order of Police has backed this effort for years. It wants to see more offered to help police and other officers be able to better cope with the stress of their job.
“This is a bill that’s been a long time coming," Lemon said. "It’s sad that it’s taking them this long to recognize it, but a lot of it is on the fact that first-responders don’t like saying that they need help."
Due to the ongoing stress of the job, police suicide rates remain high compared to other professions. The latest reports show officer suicides took more lives in 2016 than gunfire and traffic accidents combined.