La. Senate to vote on bill providing mental health support for law enforcement
MONROE, La. (KNOE) - A bill making its way through the Louisiana Legislature aims to help law enforcement personnel cope with the mental rigors of a demanding job.
If passed, Senate Bill 66 of the 2021 Regular Session would create the Peace Officer and Public Safety Personnel Peer Support and Mental Health and Wellness Act, facilitating a peer support system for peace officers and public safety personnel who need emotional or mental health support or just need someone to talk to.
Peer support members will be specially trained to provide support, but they’re not required to be licensed professionals or peace officers themselves, although they can be. Conversations with a peer support member during peer support sessions would be privileged and confidential, except in certain circumstances, such as already established mandated reporting requirements. Participation would also be optional.
Senator Jay Morris of Monroe (R-District 35) says he and many officers support the bill but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issues with it because the bill doesn’t keep the conversations between the support worker and the officer confidential in every case.
“If a law enforcement officer, during the course of his counseling or any of his sessions, then it comes out that the law enforcement professional has committed any sort of crime, then that is reportable by the counselor. If the state police feel like they need it, they’ll have to find any funding for it within the budget, their own budget,” Morris said.
West Monroe Police Officer C.J. Beck says mental health is very important in the industry and legislators need to provide the funding for the programs.
“There just needs to be more resources, not just training resources, which is very important, but they need mental health and self-awareness,” Beck said.
Morris says law enforcement agencies have ways to raise money for programs. They can also put in a request to lawmakers at the yearly budget legislative session.
“Well, we have our yearly appropriations bill, which just got out of the house, so they can put in their requests next year for funding, and we’ll just have to see how much money we have and whether there’s adequate, you know, to help them,” Morris said.
Senator Morris says he’s confident that the bill will pass in the Senate on Monday, May 10, 2021.
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