With signature from President Joe Biden, the TBI and PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act became law last week, authorizing $270 million over five years to continue the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) and to fund a new police training program.
The legislation seeks to enhance collaboration between law enforcement, first responders, and mental health professionals. Through the newest program it creates, it will also work to teach law enforcement and first responders to better recognize and respond to those suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTS).
“Florida is 49th in the nation on access to mental health care, and it is critical that law enforcement has the training needed to safely handle situation involving people with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, or other conditions,” U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), a co-sponsor of the original bill, said. “I was proud to work with Congressman Pascrell and others to stand by our law enforcement officers and ensure that they have the training and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. This new law is good for law enforcement and good for our communities. As a former social worker and law enforcement officer, I fully understand the need to expand the availability of mental health care for our families and communities because it’s time to get serious about getting our families, friends, and neighbors the support they need.”
Demings joined U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) as an initial sponsor of the TBI and PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act. This is not Demings’ first foray into the issue, though, having helped guide the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act into law in 2017, to support PTSD and other conditions suffered by law enforcement officers, and backed the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022, among others.
Among the new law’s funding provisions are $54 million for the reauthorization of the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) through 2027 to support individuals with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders winding through the justice system. Specifically, the funds will support training programs, crisis intervention teams, mental health courts, and other programs to help law enforcement address mental illness in a more understanding way.
Currently, PTSD and TBI contribute to approximately 3 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths annually, Demings said. Police have been increasingly scrutinized in recent years for how they interact with mental health cases, even though around 8 percent of Americans are expected to experience PTSD alone at some point in their lives.
In the name of greater understanding, the bill also authorized a new study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to chart the prevalence of TBI and PTSD among law enforcement and first responders and to recommend resources for addressing them.