Austin- Governor Greg Abbott has signed HB 2619 into law. This bill, by State Representative Helen Giddings (Dallas), will create a new grant program to support officer mental healthcare in police departments across the state.
In response, Rep. Giddings offered the following statement:
"I am delighted that Texas police officers will now have access to the mental health supports they need. On any given day, our officers are exposed to bloodshed, carnage, and horrors that would shake any one of us to our core. With his new program, we will protect our officers from the grip of mental trauma."
Police work is one of the most stressful occupations. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly one in four officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life. The suicide rate is almost four times the national average. In addition, between 7-19% of officers have symptoms of PTSD and require treatment.
HB 2619 directs the Governor's Criminal Justice Division to administer a grant program where law enforcement agencies can apply for a grant to implement mental health programs for peace officers. It will also create a separate program to assist agencies in providing criminal incident stress debriefings for officers who experience critical incidents while performing official duties.
One of the primary supporters of the bill was the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT). Their Executive Director, Charlie Wilkison, released the following statement after the bill was signed:
"Chair Woman Giddings has a long history of working with CLEAT to help law enforcement personnel and their families. Even during the rough and tumble climate of the 85th Session, she took the time to make sure the objective and language of HB 2619 addressed CLEAT’s concerns to protect the working officers. Representative Giddings' legislation will expand treatment for mental health treatment while preserving the privacy of the officers who are suffering. We are grateful for her strong leadership and willingness to listen."
Rep. Giddings emphasized the importance of supporting our officers' mental wellness.
"Each day, we ask more of our police officers. We ask them to be counselors, social workers, and defenders of the peace. As we ask more from them, we should all come together to give something back. Particularly as they hold life in their hands."