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November 04, 2021

Trone’s bill to improve mental health care for first responders passes

Credit: Garrett County Republican

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. David Trone’s Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act passed the U.S. House nearly unanimously.

With the passage of the Senate’s version in June, the bill went to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The legislation would improve mental health support for law enforcement by creating clear standards for confidentiality.

The bill also would encourage 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.

The bill passed just days after the two-year anniversary of Montgomery County Police Officer Thomas “T.J.” Bomba’s death by suicide in October 2019. Following his death, Trone, D-Md., held a roundtable on mental health for first responders moderated by the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Joshua Gordon. The discussion touched on the stigma surrounding access to mental health resources among the first responder community. Trone was inspired to write the bill as a result of the roundtable discussion.

Peer support counseling programs have been identified by first responders as some of the most helpful behavioral and mental health resources. But too often, the stigma associated with seeking these services serves as a barrier for those in need of support. This bill seeks to correct this problem.

“When Montgomery County Officer T.J. Bomba died by suicide, it was a wake-up call for Maryland and law enforcement agencies across the country. The task was clear: improve the mental health care and support services for our law enforcement officers and first responders,” Trone said. “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. I’m grateful to work with Representatives Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.), and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). I am also grateful to the first responders and law enforcement officers who work every day to keep our communities safe.”