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October 27, 2021

Trone bill to improve mental health care for first responders passes House, heads to president’s desk

Credit: Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Legislation designed to improve mental health support for law enforcement officers passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday and was headed to the desk of President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

The Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), also encourages state and local first responder agencies to adopt peer counseling programs by requiring the U.S. Department of Justice to make best practices publicly available on its website and provide a list of training programs for individuals to become peer support mentors, according to a news release from the congressman’s office.

“By passing the COPS Counseling Act, we can help remove the stigma that exists surrounding mental health and save the lives of officers in need,” Trone said.

The bill is supported by multiple leaders in law enforcement throughout Maryland’s 6th District, which includes Allegany and Garrett counties.

“Law enforcement officers are exposed to traumatic events on a regular basis throughout their careers, all while putting on a brave face,” Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson said in the release. “Unfortunately, there is a stigma that getting help to navigate these difficult situations is a sign of weakness, but in fact it is a sign of strength, and I believe that peer support through speaking with other officers who know the job is a vital part in keeping our department’s employees safe.

“The passage of Congressman Trone’s COPS Counseling Act will help the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the nation address our officer’s mental health needs.”

Cumberland Police Chief Chuck Ternent said officers regularly cope with the unique stressors they face every day, and have a strong support system around them.

“There are times, however, that the stressors of the job and compassion fatigue do wear on a person,” he said. “Having confidential help services available thanks to the COPS Counseling Act will undoubtedly help improve the lives of those who take advantage of it and improve the quality of policing.”

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