This May we mark National Police Week, when we honor the law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities over the last year.
We cannot begin to repay the debt we owe these Ohioans and their families. But we can work to better support both first responders, and the communities they swear an oath to protect.
It’s why I’ve introduced the bipartisan Fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act with my colleague Senator Grassley (R-IA). It would increase mental health support for our police, fire, emergency medical, and 911 personnel, as they cope with the stresses of responding to crisis situations.
We know how stressful these jobs are. Ohio’s first responders deal with some of the most tense and life-threatening situations in our communities – car accidents, fires, family disputes, people in mental health crises. And when someone cannot be saved, many are left with a sense of guilt, even when the tragic loss of life is through no fault of the first responder.
All this puts first responders at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, and tragically, death by suicide.
And so often our local police and fire departments do not have the resources to offer comprehensive mental health support. Most Ohio departments have 20 people or fewer. They don’t have the budgets and the personnel necessary to offer the wrap-around services these officers need and deserve.
It’s why our bill would direct the Department of Justice to work with local officers and other community organizations to establish programs to offer first responders the treatment programs they need for post-traumatic and acute stress disorders – supports like peer support, counseling services, family supports, and other evidence-based trauma care.
There are already groups in Ohio doing this work, trying to fill in the gaps. They need resources and support to scale up these programs.
These efforts will support first-responders, and the communities they serve. We know that police officers are better able to do their jobs, build community relationships, and respond effectively when they feel supported, and have access to mental health care.
This is bipartisan – we have a group of Republicans and Democrats on this bill. It’s an opportunity for us to come together to make policing work better, and we should get it done.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.