The Buzz

U.S. Senate passes Hawley bill to fund suicide prevention programs for police officers

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed Sen. Josh Hawley’s bill meant to prevent suicide by police officers, a measure that comes after a Kansas City police officer took his own life in February.

The bipartisan bill authorizes $7. 5 million a year to expand grant programs that fund mental health services for law enforcement officers and their families. It specifically enables the funding to be used for suicide prevention programs.

“This bill provides much-needed support for the men and women of law enforcement who keep us safe every day,” said Hawley, a Missouri Republican. “I am thrilled to see the overwhelming, bipartisan support for this legislation and hope the House will take action.”

This is freshman GOP lawmaker’s first bill to pass the Senate. It now heads to the U.S. House.

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith wrote a guest column in The Star last week in support of the legislation, noting that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among police and firefighters is five times the general population but only 10 percent of police departments have suicide prevent programs.

“We must stop treating police suicides like isolated incidents. More officers died by suicide in 2018 than in the line of duty,” Smith wrote.

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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