SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In the wake of increasing incidents of suicide in the law enforcement community, state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, worked to pass two groundbreaking pieces of legislation providing critical access to mental health resources for first responders.
“The brave men and women putting their own lives on the line to keep our families safe face more stress than most people could ever imagine,” said Burke. “First responders need to know that we have their backs when they’re struggling, just like they have ours every single day.”
Two bills backed by Burke to provide support and resources for all first responders recently passed the Illinois House with unanimous support. House Bill 2767 requires the in-service training that police officers attend every three years to include a course addressing officer wellness, teaching them how to recognize the signs of mental disorders in themselves or others and encouraging officers to seek help if they’re experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide.
House Bill 2766 creates a model for peer support counseling that all emergency service departments must implement. Additionally, this legislation nullifies the requirement that all law enforcement officers must possess a FOID card regardless of if their position requires them to carry a firearm, which has led police officers to avoid disclosing their struggles with mental health for fear of losing their jobs.
“Every person struggling with their mental health should feel empowered to seek help without fear of discipline from their employers. People are better at their job when they take care of themselves. This is especially true for our police, who interact with the public on a daily basis and often face traumatic situations,” Burke said. “This legislation is an important step forward to provide awareness and resources for first responders, so that we never again wake up to the news that a police officer took their own life because they felt they had nowhere else to turn.”