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New Illinois law lets police seek mental health services without fear of getting fired

“Failure to get help has led to a higher suicide rate among police officers.”
Cop police officer badge (ThinkStock)

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) – Illinois law now allows police officers to seek mental health treatment without fear of losing their jobs.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 5231 into law. When an officer seeks mental health treatment, they may have their Firearms Owners Identification card temporarily revoked. The new law prevents police agencies from requiring a FOID card as a condition of continued employment.

“Our law enforcement officers keep us safe. In doing so, they experience disturbing situations that may warrant their use of mental health services. This makes them human,” State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, said in a statement. “We are all safer if we make sure these officers have access to the proper mental health services to deal with the traumas they routinely face.”

Tamara Cummings, general counsel for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (FOPLC), said the organization pushed for the the change.

“So officers experiencing all of this trauma who may need help are not seeking help for fear of negative job consequences and being fired,” Cummings said.

She said the change was necessary because officers need to be able to ask for help.

“It’s been a problem for a while,” she said. “This law is long overdue and this is just the right time to pursue it, so were glad that we did and we were successful.”

Cummings said the stigma around asking for mental health services led to other problems for police officers.

“Failure to get help has led to, for example, a higher suicide rate among police officers, a higher divorce rate among police officers,” she said.

The FOPLC helped lobby for the change and Cummings said police agencies across Illinois support the move.

“Everyone we’ve talked to is very supportive of it,” she said. “It allows officers to get the help they need in a prompt fashion while also allowing employers to function and operate.”

The change does not apply to officers who may present a danger to themselves or others. It also does not prohibit an employer from evaluating an officer’s fitness to serve. Under the new law, a police officer could be placed in an administrative position while undergoing treatment for mental health issues rather than being penalized or fired for having his or her FOID card revoked because of that treatment.

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