(SACRAMENTO) – On Monday, legislation authored by Assemblymember Timothy S. Grayson (D-Concord) to provide additional, more accessible mental health services for public safety officers passed the Senate Floor with unanimous support.
“Having served for over ten year as the Concord Police Department’s Critical Response Chaplain, I have seen firsthand the intense physical and mental pressure officers often endure,” said Assemblymember Grayson. “Due to the unpredictable nature of their jobs, public safety officers must walk into work every day ready to face high-stress and traumatic incidents. This bill helps ensure that those who work to keep us safe don’t have to also walk home at the end of their shift still carrying that stress and trauma with them.”
AB 1116 will establish a Peer Support and Crisis Referral pilot program that allows for confidential communication between firefighters, parole officers, and correctional officers and their respective peers who have undergone proper peer-support training. By building off of the informal social support many emergency service personnel are already receiving, this bill works to decrease stigma around mental health, increase access to qualified support services, and help individuals to identify potential high-risk situations before a crisis event occurs.
“It is imperative to not only destigmatize the utilization of intervention services for emergency service personnel, but we must also imbue a level of true concern for the individual seeking preventive care,” said Stephen B. Walker, the director of governmental affairs for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. “That’s the only way we will be able to address the issues these men and women face.”
“The best solution seems to be having a highly trained peer support program that can connect troubled officers with mental health professionals,” said Daniel Beaman, a correctional officer and Vice Chair of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association Benefit Trust Fund.
The long-term effects of stress associated with public safety professions can lead to post-traumatic stress, heart disease, substance abuse, or tragically, even suicide. Correctional officers consider or attempt suicide at a rate that is nearly three times that of the general population, and in the last year more firefighters died by suicide than on duty. Too often professionals in these fields are reluctant to seek help because of a perception that they should not show weakness, or due to a fear that it will adversely impact their employment. AB 1116 will create a life-line for firefighters and correctional and parole officers so they do not need to suffer in silence.
AB 1116 will now head back to the Assembly on concurrence.
Tim Grayson represents the 14th Assembly District that includes the communities of Benicia, Concord, Clayton, Martinez, Pleasant Hill, Vallejo, Pittsburg and Walnut Creek. For more information please visit the Assemblymember’s website, www.assembly.ca.gov/a14.