PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse alongside public safety officials are calling on Congress to pass a bill that would provide funding for mental health and support services for police officers.
According to data by Blue H.E.L.P, 165 police officers committed suicide in 2018. It was the leading cause of death among law enforcement last year.
The bill, introduced by Whitehouse, calls for the allocation of $7.5 million annually over the next five years.
“What we ask our law enforcement officers to bear for all of us is quite remarkable,” Whitehouse said. “It is a very significant burden and it is our obligation to listen to them and make sure their men and women get the support that they need.”
The bill, titled the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act (STOIC), would also make funding available to establish suicide prevention programs for law enforcement.
“Week after week, police officers respond to criminal events, car accidents, and they just build up emotional trauma,” Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said. “This bill is so important to take care of those in need.”
The legislation passed the Senate unanimously in May and was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation now needs to go before the House for a full vote.
“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.”