Video above is WDVM’s coverage of Officer Thomas J. Bomba’s funeral in Oct. 2019.
WASHINGTON (WDVM) — A U.S. House bill encouraging mental health programs for first responders was introduced on May 1, the start of Mental Health Awareness Month. This bipartisan bill comes after a Montgomery County, Maryland police officer died by suicide last year.
U.S. Representative David Trone (D-MD) co-introduced the bill with Representative Guy Rechenthaler (R-PA).
“It became clear after Montgomery County Officer T.J. Bomba’s suicide last year that we needed to pay more attention to the mental health care and support services for our law enforcement officers and first responders,” Trone said in a press release Friday.
The Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act would “increase privacy protections for officers in peer counseling programs by creating clear standards for confidentiality, and encourage state and local first responder agencies to adopt peer counseling programs,” according to the press release sent by Trone’s office.
The bill would also require that a list of peer support mentor training programs be posted on
“By providing confidentiality for peer support services like we do in the COPS Counseling Act, we can begin to remove the stigma that exists surrounding mental health. I’m grateful to work with Congressman Reschenthaler and first responders in my district to support our law enforcement and first responder community, especially during these unprecedented times.”Rep. Trone on May 1, 2020
Shortly after Bomba’s death in October 2019, Trone had a roundtable discussion about mental health for first responders. According to Trone’s office, first responders have said peer support counseling programs are helpful resources support behavorial and mental health. The bill aims to remove stigma around seeking help from these programs, with publicizing these programs on the U.S. Department of Justice website.
“Policing is a very stressful occupation. Anything we can do to encourage police officers to seek help when they are having a difficult time at work is a benefit to them and the community they are serving,” said retired Montgomery County, Md. Police Chief Tom Manger in a press release.
The Chief of Police of the Montgomery County Department of Police, Marcus Jones, wrote a letter supporting the legislation. His letter said in part, “There should be no barriers for our public safety employees to obtain the treatments or assistance needed. This bill will assist in eliminating those barriers.”
Mental health is an issue for everyone, not just first responders and law enforcement. Trone recently hosted a mental health discussion including experts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The webinar touched on resources for every day people who are struggling with mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Watch a replay of this discussion here on WDVM.