Legislation would Enhance DHS’ Ability to Provide Officers and Agents with Increased Mental Health Resources
DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced bipartisan legislation to increase mental health resources for law enforcement personnel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The legislation would create the DHS Law Enforcement Mental Health and Resiliency Program to oversee and streamline the delivery of enhanced mental health and wellness services for DHS law enforcement officers and agents. U.S Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS-02), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-02) have also introduced companion legislation in the House.
“Dedicated law enforcement officers and agents at the Department of Homeland Security carry out our country’s toughest national security missions, and they deserve more federal resources to support their wellbeing,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will expand needed mental health resources for these dedicated professionals who put their lives on the line every day to protect our nation.”
“I am proud to introduce the DHS Suicide Prevention and Resiliency for Law Enforcement Act alongside Chairman Gary Peters,” said Senator Hawley. “This legislation aims to prevent the growing number of suicides among law enforcement personnel, many of whom bravely serve at our southern border.”
“It is beyond tragic that CBP has seen a record number of officers and agents lost to suicide in recent years. That’s why I am sponsoring this much-needed bipartisan legislation to address this clear health care crisis among DHS’s law enforcement workforce, which includes CBP,” said Representative Thompson. “We need a program at DHS that can not only provide mental health support, development, and resources, but ensure that the workforce can access those resources without risking their careers. I thank Senator Peters, Congressman Garbarino, and Senator Hawley for helping lead this effort.”
“Law enforcement officers within the Department of Homeland Security are on the front lines, protecting the homeland, and keeping Americans safe from threats. This vital work can be incredibly taxing on one’s mental health and it’s only right that we in Congress ensure that they are given the support and resources needed to safeguard their mental well-being,” said Representative Garbarino. “I am proud to join this bicameral, bipartisan effort to strengthen suicide prevention and resiliency for our federal law enforcement officers.”
“NTEU commends Sen. Gary Peters and Sen. Josh Hawley and Rep. Bennie Thompson and Rep. Andrew Garbarino for making the mental health and well-being of Customs and Border Protection employees a top priority. Their legislative proposal to create the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Welfare Program at the Department of Homeland Security would be a significant step toward making mental and behavioral health services more accessible to the thousands of CBP employees we represent at our nation’s ports of entry. Because CBP Officers and other frontline employees work long hours in highly stressful, demanding, and potentially life-threatening environments, those dedicated employees need access to effective behavioral health services which include an effective Peer Support Program, an improved Employee Assistance Program, and the removal of the stigma and other obstacles that serve as barriers to employees seeking assistance. NTEU has been working with Congress to provide comprehensive health and wellness resiliency resources and protections for the CBP workforce which we believe are essential to address the needs of our members whose jobs are to secure our nation’s land, sea, and air ports of entry,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.
Law enforcement officers and agents at DHS frequently conduct dangerous and traumatizing missions to safeguard communities. The legislation would provide DHS with a comprehensive and targeted approach to support the mental health and wellness of law enforcement personnel at this critical agency.
The DHS Suicide Prevention and Resiliency for Law Enforcement Act will establish a Law Enforcement Mental Health and Resiliency Program within DHS. The program will provide additional oversight, guidance, and resources to DHS components that perform law enforcement duties. The bill would also require DHS components to prioritize mental health, well-being, resilience, and suicide prevention programs. This bill would require each DHS component to assign a representative to the program to ensure the sharing of best practices and resources across the department. The bill would also require the review and revision of current policies to improve mental health and wellness programs and training and reduce the stigma of seeking mental health assistance.