NYPD Launches Peer Support Program for Officers in Wake of Recent Suicides

NYAPRS Note: A powerful reminder about the challenges faced by police officers and the environment that police departments need to create to encourage them to get needed mental health related assistance and support.

NYPD Launches Mental Health Initiatives, Training in Wake of Officer Suicides

By Amanda Eisenberg  Politico  August 27, 2019

The New York City Police Department is attempting to address an increasing need for mental health care access, officials said today, amid a spate of officer suicides.

The police department is launching a "peer-to-peer support program" wherein volunteers within the department "will be available to ask, listen, encourage and follow-up with all members of the service in each command," department spokesperson Devora Kaye said in an email. The department is also deploying a smartphone app listing available services to officers.

The initiatives come after nine police suicides this year — deaths that have raised concerns NYPD brass have not fostered a sufficient environment for cops to seek mental health care. The announcement followed news earlier in the day that Public Advocate Jumaane Williams would introduce legislation establishing an independent office for cops to receive mental health care, outside the department.

"The NYPD has declared a mental health crisis and has taken immediate action to provide enhanced support and resources to officers," said Kaye.

"Officers spend so much of their days assisting others, but it is imperative that officers also help themselves."

The peer-to-peer support program will be in every precinct, NYCHA police service area and transit district, Kaye said. Recruitment is underway, she added.

The NYPD is also mandating mental health training for executive staff and command-level officers, which is also underway. Officials could not immediately provide an estimated cost for the new programs.

ThriveNYC, the city's sprawling mental health initiative, is helping the police department identify non-government programs and resources for officers, Kaye said. The NYPD is also increasing staffing resources, including mental health professionals, to provide continuous training and outreach to officers.

The city is still working on expanding mental health provider options through the NYPD's insurance plan, which Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Aug. 15 could be remediated within days.