South Bend police patrolman James Burns is one of several area cops praising the recent work of Indiana’s two U.S. senators to improve mental health care for officers.
“The TV shows portray officers as being hard, like robots,” Burns said. “In reality we’re regular human beings like anybody else.”
Indiana’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Todd Young, have worked to improve military veterans’ access to mental health care. Donnelly issued a statement applauding President Donald Trump’s executive order Tuesday directing the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security to ensure service members transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life receive mental health care for a year.
Donnelly, realizing police officers also regularly witness traumatic events, early last year wrote the police bill, and asked Young to join as a sponsor. Their Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act unanimously passed the Senate in May, the House in late November passed a companion bill sponsored by Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Carmel, and the bill awaits Trump’s signature.
The bill would:
- Make federal grants available to police departments that want to start peer mentoring programs.
- Direct the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to develop resources for mental health providers based on the specific mental health challenges that officers face.
- Study the effectiveness of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks for police.
- Direct the Departments of Defense, Justice and Veterans Affairs to share their existing mental health practices and services for veterans that might be adopted by police departments.