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Police mental health, community economic distress programs await governor’s signature 

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill meant to help law enforcement and economically distressed areas is awaiting final approval after receiving broad bipartisan support in the legislature. 

Sen. Karla May’s SB 57 would establish a Critical Incident Stress Management Program for police officers within the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Under the program, officers would receive assistance coping with stress and psychological trauma resulting from an emotionally stressful event on the job. All officers would be required to meet with a program service provider every three to five years for a mental health check-in

“This came out of a conversation that I was having with law enforcement. The discussions started in the summer of 2020, and one of the things I wanted to talk about was mental health,” May told The Missouri Times. “I used to work in the mental health field, and I understand that once you see something it’s hard to unsee it. Police officers deal with the worst side of humanity daily, and we wanted something that would let them have a conversation about the things they see.”

The bill would establish a public safety fund within DPS to administer the program. Services include risk assessment, consultation, education, and intervention.

Another section of the bill focused on struggling communities; the Economic Distress Zone Fund, also distributed by DPS, would allocate funding to nonprofit organizations offering services to areas with high crime and deteriorating infrastructure

“Some areas are at over 25 percent if you look at the poverty map of the state of Missouri,” May said. “Those areas see higher incidents of crime, and we wanted to see how we could address that. We created this fund so that private entities could have a place to donate money to be accessed by nonprofits who are working to change the lives of individuals who are living in those poverty-stricken areas.”

Providing a safe place for corporations to donate to social initiatives created a private-public partnership, May said, ensuring donors a reliable and secure donation process. The fund would be capped at $3 million and sunset in 2024. 

The bill passed the upper chamber with broad bipartisan support and was carried by GOP Rep. Ron Hicks in the House; while an attempt to add the police officers bill of rights to the bill as an amendment briefly put the package in flux, it was truly agreed to and finally passed unanimously after the measure was dropped in conference. 

With both funds passed under one bill, May said they would work hand-in-hand to reduce crime and maintain the health of communities and law enforcement. 

“A lot of the incidents police face have to deal with social-economic issues, and the Economic Distress Zone Fund helps fund solutions to those issues — it helps reduce crime by dealing with these issues and the underlying causes of crime so police can focus on criminals,” May said. “That fund is for these communities, and the Critical Incident Stress Management Program is to make sure we keep a healthy police force.”