Bill addresses mental health needs of LEOs and other First Responders
Mike Seals - March 9, 2021 11:15 am
Peer support crisis intervention for law enforcement & first responders approved by Senate
OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, authored Senate Bill 848 to better address the unique mental health needs of law enforcement officers and other first responders who have witnessed and experienced traumatic events. The bill, which was unanimously approved late Monday by the Senate, came about after listening to public safety officers’ stories in an interim study last September she hosted with Sen. Roger Thompson to learn how the state could improve crisis intervention services for Oklahoma’s heroes.
“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.
SB 848 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. Qualified crisis intervention training entities will provide peer support teams trained in crisis intervention and wellness strategies. They must also be derived from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and will employ the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) crisis intervention process. All instructors that teach the CISM process will be ICISF-approved.
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, fearing career repercussions, failure, embarrassment, ridicule, or some other stigma do not seek help. The Tulsa County Sheriff’s office was an example of a department that has successfully utilized peer support crisis intervention where select officers are trained in how to help their fellow officers seek counseling and other mental health assistance they may need.
“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 next goes to the House where Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, will carry the measure