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Council bill proposed to boost mental health services for cops in wake of suicides

2019-09-11

In the wake of the suicides of nine police officers this year, the City Council will consider a bill aimed at boosting mental health services for cops across the city.

The heart of the bill would require the NYPD to hire clinicians who would work out of police precincts giving counseling to police officers on a confidential basis. For cops who ask for it, the clinicians would refer them to outside counselors for additional help.

The hope is that the clinicians will get to know the officers and thus break down the stigma among cops about discussing things that are bothering them, according to bill sponsors Councilmen Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) and Donovan Richards (D-Queens).

The estimated price tag is about $150 million a year, according to a source familiar with the planning.

“We are facing tragedy after tragedy and we have to do everything in our power to support officers,” said Richards, the chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Richards said he lives about three blocks from the home of Officer Robert Echeverria, who fatally shot himself Aug. 14 to become the ninth officer this year to die by suicide.

“It really hit home,” he said. “To see his family, that will remain with me forever.”

Levine is the lead sponsor on the bill. “We need to remove the stigma from mental health support services from our police force,” he said. “We need to make this as normal a part of the services offered in the department as an annual physical. That’s going to require additional resources.”

The bill also would require the department to hold annual group counseling sessions with officers, and post detailed information about mental health and services in police commands.

“The NYPD wellness task force will be reviewing the legislation,” an NYPD spokesman said.

The bill will be introduced Thursday, with a hearing scheduled for Sept. 17.