Colorado to devote funds toward peace officer mental health services

 Colorado to devote funds toward peace officer mental health services

Vail Chief of Police Dwight Henninger said police officers have benefited from mental health services provided by “culturally competent” professionals.
Vail Daily archive

With so much focus on the fentanyl bill during Colorado’s 2022 legislative session, Avon Police Chief Greg Daly didn’t have a chance to follow up on the lesser -known effort to use the additional funding for mental health resources in police.

But Daly said he wasn’t surprised to hear his Avon neighbor, Rep. Dylan Roberts, who was the main sponsor of the bill.

“Apparently Dylan’s experience working in the District Attorney’s office – he’s the one who has to prosecute cases, sees the trauma involved – he sees the impact and the impact of these types of cases on police , “said Daly. “It makes him a good champion on these issues.”

The fee, SB22-005expands access to ethical health and counseling support for law enforcement officers, something Roberts said is key for officers experiencing difficult work situations.

The bill, called “Law Enforcement Agency Peace Officer Services,” seeks to direct $ 3 million into a program that will help law enforcement agencies retain and recruit officers and expand access to ethical health and counseling support to prevent peace officer suicide deaths. It passed the Colorado Senate and House this week and was sent to the governor to sign into law.

“We drafted the bill with law enforcement and made the permitted use of funds relatively flexible so that each department could have programs and resources that work for their individual needs,” Roberts said Friday.

That could be anything from direct counseling for individual officers, to carving out group time in departments for yoga and mindfulness exercises.

Daly said police officers are already starting to get the idea that they also need someone to talk to about the ways in which they are affected by the difficult conditions surrounding their job duties.

“The question that’s best researched is‘ What did we do with that trauma? ’” Daly said. “The old way is to go home and get drunk and try to erase it from your mind. But obviously that’s not the right way, whoever or what you are.

‘It will never go away’

Daly said in recent years, officers have begun to come up with the idea that – in finding work to become community watchers – things like therapy sessions, meditation and and mindfulness training. is the right way to achieve the strong mind that must be accompanied by the strong body of a police officer.

“The culture of laughing and suffering from it, where we can’t seem to allow these things to affect us, is starting to disappear because we know we’re all human so it has to have an impact,” Daly said. “I remember some sad situations I faced in my 26 years like what happened yesterday. It will not go away. ”

People who suffer from mental health issues often find themselves interacting with the police, “But if we have problems dealing with ourselves, how can we dealing with other people’s mental health issues? ” Daly said.

The involvement in improving the mental health of officers comes in a number of ways. One is the simple realization of the fact that suicide is an occupational hazard that can be more deadly than being killed by a criminal.

In focusing on mental health issues for officers, “there has been a huge push across the United States, and a huge push locally,” Daly said.

That push came in the form of funding, which makes the difference between being mandatory for departments like Avon.

Last year the Avon Police Department, inspired by a grant from the Department of Local Affairs, mandated that every officer talk to a licensed psychologist, “even if they come in and talk about football within a time, “Daly said.

Sergeant Tyler Churches led the tasing drills with new Police Officers Josh Hernandez and Cirilo Zarate of the Avon Police Department.
Madison Rahhal/Vail Daily archive

Part of the work

Another step local departments have taken in recent years is to look at increasing peer support training, where public safety professionals will be able to seek the advice of someone who is also experienced in public safety issues, and working in the profession itself.

Daly said he has several officers in his department.

“Those officers can be contacted on duty or out of duty and those officers can provide peer support to someone who may be struggling,” Daly said. “It’s a support network of our colleagues, the fire department and the police department, in the county.”

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said prior to the addition of peer support training, Vail is a good example of a town where, while the town may be well known for workplace issues (in Vail shown in creating the employee assistance program), “most people have no experience dealing with public safety officers,” Henninger said.

“So it’s very helpful for us to have the funds to allow officers to talk to counselors who are culturally competent and understand what’s in the profession, and the stressors they face,” Henninger said.

Daly said young officers and those already in the profession through the many technological changes that have taken place over the past two decades have always been flexible with the changes in the departments that oversee the creation of new- mental health resources and peer support groups.

Daly said using himself as an example, he has been hot on the idea of ​​yoga in recent years-both of which can benefit practice officials due to the fact that they are dealing with mental and physical stressor at work, and yoga can help both.

“I’ve seen some departments have an hour of yoga,” he says. “We accept mental health things, but we’ve been there for a long time.”

“I personally believe, as a profession, we’ve become more adaptable to new ideas than ever before,” Daly said. “There are young people who come in with a more open-minded, broad-minded.… The police profession in general has generally been slow to change, historically, but over the past 15 years we have embraced a lot changes in the way we do business, and technology. ”

Henninger said the bill’s inclusion of funding for officer retention is also a step in the right direction.

“For me, providing mental and physical well -being is a form of sustainability, and an important part of it,” he said.

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