OKLAHOMA CITY – The governor signed two bills into law this week to help provide better mental health services for Oklahoma’s law enforcement members and their families. Senate Majority Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter, said she authored the bills after hosting an interim study last fall where law enforcement officials from various agencies around the state shared about the ever-growing mental health needs in the public safety community.
“Oklahoma is blessed to have some of the best, most professional public safety men and women in the country. However, their jobs are extremely difficult and mentally taxing, and just as they protect our communities, we want to protect them,” David said. “Unfortunately, due to stigma, embarrassment or fear of career repercussions, many officers won’t seek professional help for their mental health. Many deal with mental exhaustion from being subjected to constant traumas while trying to protect their relationships and prevent burnout. Peer-to-peer support groups have proven highly successful, and these two bills will ensure our public servants and their families have access to this high level of mental health care.”
SB 848 directs the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to contract with Oklahoma public and private entities to provide peer support crisis intervention, counseling and wellness for law enforcement, firefighter, emergency medical and corrections communities impacted by trauma, stress, anxiety, addictions, death, and suicide. Qualified crisis intervention training entities are required to provide peer support teams trained in crisis intervention and wellness strategies and must be derived from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and must employ the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) crisis intervention process. Instructors must be ICISF approved instructors. The bill also requires wellness strategies to include resilience training, emotional survival, substance abuse prevention, financial and relationship strategies.
SB 361 modifies the definition of “peer support counseling sessions” as used in the Oklahoma Evidence Code to allow for the participation of the immediate family of public safety and emergency services personnel.
House Appropriations & Budget Committee chair Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, was the principal author of the two measures.
“I’m happy to help our law enforcement community and our emergency service providers with these needed mental health reforms,” Wallace said. “Those who do so much to keep us safe deserve to have these additional resources. I appreciate the help and support from my colleagues Reps. Chris Kannady and Marcus McEntire in seeing these measure passed.”
David’s interim study revealed that officers commonly deal with depression, anxiety, anger, PTSD, helplessness, addiction, and other emotional issues. The Ruderman Foundation reports that 35% of officers have PTSD and 31% suffer from depression while only 7% of the public experience either. According to a 2018 National Fraternal Order of Police study, more than 16% of officers have had thoughts of suicide, more than 65% have sleep problems or disorders and nearly 61% have intrusive or unwanted memories including images, sounds and smells from the traumas they have witnessed. The study also found that more than 52% of officers have or are facing relationship problems. Over 90% report stigma is a barrier to seeking treatment and also that they believe the public lacks awareness of the critical stress in law enforcement.
Both bills will go into effect November 1, 2021.
For more information, contact: Sen. David: (405) 521-5590 or Kim.David@oksenate.gov