Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators 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 (COPS) 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. Critically, 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,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “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.”
“Law enforcement officers across the country sacrifice so much to keep our communities safe and healthy, and they often endure challenging and traumatic situations in the process. Confidential peer counseling programs provide an important mental health outlet for these officers to share their experiences, decompress and receive guidance. This bill ensures officers have an opportunity to participate in peer counseling with the confidence that their privacy will be protected. I appreciate Sen. Cortez Masto’s leadership in this effort,” Senator Grassley said.
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 also cosponsored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-S.C.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) It is endorsed by Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), Blue HELP, the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), and the International Union of Police Association (IUPA).
Senator Cortez Masto has been a top advocate in the Senate for law enforcement officers’ mental health, as she was as Nevada’s Attorney General. Her Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act was signed into law last year, helping prevent suicide by 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.