DOJ Releases Mental Health, Wellness Reports for Law Enforcement Officers

As mandated by the 2017 Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has submitted to Congress a report on the mental health and wellness of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement. The DOJ has also issued a report outlining 11 case studies of law enforcement departments. Each report discusses strategies for improving officer wellbeing.

The case study report addresses a range of ways to address mental health. A main insight from the report is that “There is clearly a continuum of mental health and wellness strategies, programs, and methodologies represented in the breadth of the 11 case studies presented. The continuum begins with recruitment and hiring and goes through retirement. It includes proactive prevention and resiliency building; early interventions; critical incident response; treatment, reintegration; and ongoing support for officers, staff members, and their families.”

The report notes that each program takes a holistic approach to officer, staff, and family mental health and wellness. The approaches integrate mental health with understanding proper fitness, nutrition, medical care, sleep, healthy relationships, financial stability, substance abuse, self-care, peer support, early warning systems, the handling of disciplinary procedures, and character and moral development.

The reviewed programs primarily focus on crisis intervention training, victim services, early warning systems, and responses to officer hardship.

The subsequent report to Congress offered several key recommendations to Congress on improving officer mental health.

Among the 22 recommendation presented are:

  • Support the creation of a public service campaign around law enforcement officer mental health and wellness in conjunction with National Mental Health Month.
  • Support the development of resources for community-based clinicians who interact with law enforcement and their families to help them better understand some of the unique risks facing their clients and what resources may be available to them as members of the first responder community.
  • Support programs to embed mental health professionals in law enforcement agencies.
  • Support programs for law enforcement family readiness at the federal, state, and local level.
  • Encourage departments to allow retired law enforcement officers to make use of departmental peer support programs for a select period of time post-retirement or separation.
  • Support the development of model policies and implementation guidance for law enforcement agencies to make substantial efforts to reduce suicide.
  • Support the creation of a Law Enforcement Suicide Event Report surveillance system, possibly beginning with a focus on federal law enforcement agencies.

The COPs Office Resource Center, a DOJ unit which led the report, noted, “Good mental and psychological health is just as essential as good physical health for law enforcement officers to be effective in keeping our country and our communities safe from crime and violence. With the passage of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act, Congress took an important step in improving the delivery of and access to mental health and wellness services that will help our nation's more than 800,000 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers. Many things, including strong relationships with the community, help keep officers safe on the job.”

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