Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative David Trone
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Hannah Muldavin, Hannah.Muldavin@mail.house.gov
U.S. Representatives David Trone, Guy Reschenthaler Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Encourage Mental Health Support and Protect the Privacy of Law Enforcement and First Responders
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives David Trone (D-MD) and Guy Rechenthaler (R-PA) introduced the bipartisan Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act. The legislation would increase privacy protections for officers in peer counseling programs by creating clear standards for confidentiality.
The bill would also encourage state and local first responder agencies to adopt peer counseling programs by requiring the U.S. Department of Justice to make best practices publicly available on their website and to provide a list of training programs for individuals to become peer support mentors.
Peer support counseling programs have been identified by first responders as some of the most helpful behavioral and mental health resources. But oftentimes, the stigma associated with seeking these services serves as a barrier for those in need of support. This bill seeks to correct this problem.
The duo introduced the bill on May 1st, the start of Mental Health Awareness Month.
“It became clear after Montgomery County Officer T.J. Bomba’s suicide last year that we needed to pay more attention to the mental health care and support services for our law enforcement officers and first responders,” said Rep. Trone. “By providing confidentiality for peer support services like we do in the COPS Counseling Act, we can begin to remove the stigma that exists surrounding mental health. I’m grateful to work with Congressman Reschenthaler and first responders in my district to support our law enforcement and first responder community, especially during these unprecedented times.”
“Every day, law enforcement officers put their own lives at risk to keep us safe,” said Rep. Reschenthaler. “Peer-to-peer counseling provides an important outlet where these men and women can deal with the stress and trauma they experience on a daily basis. I am proud to introduce the COPS Counseling Act with Congressman Trone, which will ensure our law enforcement officers are able to participate in peer counseling and know their privacy is protected. This legislation will also encourage first responder agencies to adopt peer counseling programs so more officers can take advantage of this important mental health resource. I hope my colleagues in the House will join us to improve mental health treatment for police officers by supporting the COPS Counseling Act.”
This bill comes following the suicide of Montgomery County Police Officer Thomas “T.J.” Bomba in October of 2019. Following his death, Congressman Trone held a roundtable on mental health for first responders moderated by the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health Dr. Joshua Gordon. The meeting touched on the stigma surrounding access to mental health resources among the first responder community.
Congressman Trone’s First Responders Mental Health Roundtable, November 2019
“Our officers encounter stressful situations every day, and that stress has only increased in the COVID-19 environment,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones. “I appreciate Congressman Trone listening and prioritizing the mental health of our first responder community and making it more accessible for law enforcement to access the treatment they need in order to continue to serve their community.”
“Policing is a very stressful occupation. Anything we can do to encourage police officers to seek help when they are having a difficult time at work is a benefit to them and the community they are serving,” said retired Montgomery County, Md. Police Chief and former President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association Tom Manger.
You can read more about the legislation here.
You can read the entire bill text here.
You can read the letter of support from Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones here.
Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland, which includes all or part of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Trone serves on the Education and Labor, Foreign Affairs, and Joint Economic Committees, where he is fighting to make progress on issues that matter to Marylanders, including the opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform, and funding for medical research.