Oklahoma Senate approves law enforcement and mental health bills

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The Senate has given the go-ahead to two bills regarding law enforcement in Oklahoma.

The first is Senate Bill 1612, also known as the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Unification Act. SB1612 would consolidate the following agencies in 2023: Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP), Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBNDDC) under the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The bill would also create a mental wellness division that would provide services and programs to public safety personnel with the goal of promoting good mental wellness.

“This bill is the result of months of work by this committee of our state’s most senior public safety officials, who met with hundreds of law enforcement personnel from various state agencies. to hear their concerns and ideas about how Oklahoma can improve recruitment and retention. . The main needs were better training, more career opportunities, and better access to mental health,” said SB1612 author Sen. Kim David, R-Porter. “Uniting these agencies will solve all of these problems and improve services through better collaboration and uniform training. We need to ensure that all public safety personnel receive the same training in high level, so that they can easily move from one area of ​​law enforcement to another, giving them more career opportunities, whether they are highway patrolmen or want to assist in investigations, drug enforcement or other places. I am proud of this bill and I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Senate.

SB1612 passed the Senate with a 37-6 vote on March 24.

The second bill, also authored by Senator David, is Senate Bill 1613. This bill directs the Department of Public Safety to establish and maintain the Mental Wellness Division.

“Oklahoma’s public safety members are some of the best and most professional in the country, but these are extremely difficult and mentally taxing jobs. Unfortunately, many will not seek help for their mental health due to embarrassment, stigma or fear of career repercussions,” said Senator David. “Depression, anxiety, addiction and mental exhaustion are common for these heroes due to the constant trauma they face, and it also negatively impacts their marriages and other relationships. Just as they protect us all, we must protect them and their families, which includes their mental health. »

SB1613 also establishes a revolving fund and a nonprofit foundation to raise funds for the fund. It passed the Senate with a vote of 43 to 0 on March 24.

Bills will now be directed to the House for consideration.

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