More federal funding for law enforcement mental health is needed

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Chicago has one of the highest police suicide rates in the country. According to a 2017 Department of Justice report, the Chicago Police Department’s suicide rate was 60% higher than the national average among law enforcement.

The Chicago Sun-Times recently shared the stories of CPD officers Paul Escamilla and Jeff Troglia, who lost their lives by suicide.

During his 17 years with the department, Officer Escamilla would put on a singlet over his police uniform when he went to work “because he was afraid someone would retaliate against him”, said his widow Anastasia “Stacy” Escamilla, describing the toll the job took on her late husband’s mental health due to 12-hour days, canceled days off and negative public perception of the forces order.

Julie Troglia, the widow of Officer Troglia, painted a similar picture of an unsustainable lifestyle.

Officer Escamilla committed suicide in September 2019, leaving behind his wife and three young children. Less than two years later, Officer Troglia also left behind his wife and their three young children.

It’s no coincidence that these two families share similar stories about the reality that law enforcement officers and their families face.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the majority of police officers are at risk for alcohol abuse, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and one in four have considered suicide. In fact, more police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty.

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am in a position to act on these tragic stories. I supported the US bailout, which was passed by Congress last year and included $360 billion in funding that state and local governments could use to support law enforcement. .But there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to mental health support. In the next few days we will do just that.

During Police Week, which runs May 15-21 this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee has traditionally voted on bipartisan bills to bolster law enforcement. Last May, I led my first Police Week markup as committee chair, and together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we advanced bills that have been passed into law. by President Joe Biden.

It should be noted that Police Week falls during Mental Health Awareness Month. With the stories of the Escamilla and Troglia families at the forefront of my mind, the Judiciary Committee will use this time again this year as an only to pause and honor our law enforcement and their families, but also to take action to improve their lives and livelihoods.

My committee will be considering a number of bills, including the Public Safety Officers Support Act. Led by my colleague, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., this bipartisan legislation would extend the benefits of the Public Safety Officer Benefit Program to mental health incidents, recognizing suicide as death “in the line of duty.” duties” and designating PTSD as an injury in the line of duty.

We also need to ensure that our first responders receive strong preventative care and treatment. To that end, we will also pass the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act 2022, which directs the Attorney General to provide work-related stress disorder treatment and prevention programs for security officers. public.

We will also be considering the Invest to Protect Act, which would spend more than $250 million on law enforcement de-escalation training, domestic violence training, officer safety, equipment, mental health, recruitment and retention support; the Strong Communities Act, which supports local law enforcement agencies recruiting from the communities they serve; and the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act, which would provide additional federal support to local law enforcement to enact de-escalation training so officers can more effectively respond to people in the throes of trouble. mental or behavioral crises.

As our country is in the midst of sometimes heated discussions about how best to ensure accountability in law enforcement and make our communities safer, it is important that we continue to offer support to law enforcement officers. law enforcement who serve us with dignity and integrity.

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Dick Durbin is a United States Senator from Illinois.

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