Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today joined with public safety officials and mental health advocates to call for increased federal funding for mental health and suicide prevention services geared toward police officers. Whitehouse has introduced the bipartisan Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis (STOIC) Act to authorize $7.5 million annually for the next five years for law enforcement mental health and support services that have gone unfunded for almost two decades.
“Members of law enforcement are the first to show up in times of danger or tragedy,” said Whitehouse. “Police officers help people through the most difficult moments of their lives, and helping officers deal with what they must bear to keep their communities safe is an important duty we owe.”
In addition to reauthorizing grant funding for support services, the STOIC Act would allow grant recipients to use funds to establish suicide prevention programs and mental health services for law enforcement officers. There were 165 confirmed officer suicides nationwide in 2018, making suicide the leading cause of death for law enforcement, according to the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P.
“The stress and trauma officers experience everyday weighs on them and can become overwhelming over time,” said Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh Clements. “It is important to keep our officers physically and mentally sound for better quality of life at both work and at home. I thank Senator Whitehouse for his support on this important issue in law enforcement in the 21st century.”
The STOIC Act passed the Senate unanimously in May. Companion legislation was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week and awaits a vote in the House.
“Because of the stigma associated with asking for help, law enforcement are often reluctant to seek professional care,” said Denise Panichas, Executive Director of the Samaritans of Rhode Island. “The reauthorization of this legislation will serve as a national reminder that stigma should never be a barrier to physical and emotional wellness.”
Whitehouse and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) sponsor the legislation in the Senate. Both Whitehouse and Hawley served as the chief law enforcement officers for their respective states before entering Congress.
The bill has been endorsed by law enforcement and mental health advocacy groups, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, National Association of Police Organizations, National Fraternal Order of Police, Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department, National District Attorneys Association, and International Association of Chiefs of Police.