U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, celebrated their bipartisan legislation to protect the privacy of law enforcement officers seeking mental health support passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support Counseling Act would encourage the adoption of law enforcement peer counseling programs across the country and protect the privacy of federal officers as they seek mental health support. This bill would ensure that the information disclosed during peer support counseling sessions by federal law enforcement officers is kept confidential. The legislation now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
“Our law enforcement officers stand up and protect our communities every day, and we need to make sure they have access to quality mental health counseling to deal with the stress and trauma associated with their service,” Cortez Masto said. “Peer-to-peer counseling is a proven way to provide mental health support to law enforcement, and my bipartisan legislation will help expand these critical programs while making them more effective by ensuring that any personal information officers share with peer counselors remains confidential.
“Providing robust mental health support to our law enforcement reduces the stigma of seeking help and leads to better policing, and I’ll continue working across the aisle to support our officers in Nevada and across the country.”
A recent survey of law enforcement officers by the Fraternal Order of Police and NBC New York revealed that 73% of respondents found peer support programs to be the most helpful mental health resource. Unfortunately, the survey also found that confidentiality concerns prevented many officers from accessing peer support teams.
Modeled after Nevada’s confidentiality laws, the COPS Counseling Act would provide confidentiality to federal law enforcement officers who use peer counseling services, while excepting admissions of criminal conduct or threats of serious physical harm. The bill would also encourage first responder agencies to adopt peer counseling programs by requiring the DOJ to make best practices publicly available on its website and to provide a list of training programs for individuals to become peer support mentors.
This bill is cosponsored by Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Chris Coons of Delaware, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. It is endorsed by Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Blue HELP, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Union of Police Association.
Cortez Masto has a record of advocacy for law enforcement officers’ mental health dating to her tenure as Nevada’s attorney general. Her Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act was signed into law last year, requiring the FBI to collect voluntary, anonymous data on police suicides and attempted suicides from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Cortez Masto has led efforts to expand mental health and peer support programs and recently introduced the Virtual Peer Support Act to help ensure behavioral health programs can continue online.