BOISE — A day on the job for a police officer isn't what it used to be. As we all know now, a lot of their time is spent dealing with calls related to mental health. While that takes a toll on the person officers receive the call about, it also takes a toll on the officers who respond.
The Boise Police Department says nearly 70-percent of calls they get are related to mental health. Through peer support and free counseling, the Boise Police Department provides a list of ways to help their officers stay healthy mentally.
"We have a peer support team and we have designated officers that we put through the training," said Capt. Ron Winegar with the Boise Police Department. That peer support is often the first line of assistance, available to all officers in the Boise Police Department, at all times. "We are simply peers who have been around awhile and seen some of the things that maybe some of the newer officers are going through," said Winegar.
When you're in a high stress career field, helping your community cope in the midst of their own mental health crises on a nearly day-to-day basis, a support system available for the people who are always assisting others, is crucial, especially following an instance where an officer has to use their last resort, "No officer takes lightly the issue of deadly force, and it's a great responsibility that we bear,” said Winegar. But it takes a toll on an officer, and on their families at home--"You might see officers seemingly light-hearted in their day-to-day interaction with each other, but when it comes right down to it, if you're involved in one of those situations, it is a big deal and it does have a big impact on you," said Winegar.
And while Winegar says peer support is one of the best ways for officers to cope, sometimes it isn't enough. "If something's really going awry and it's been a long time and they're having issues with that, we definitely encourage officers to reach out and get professional help," said Winegar.
Through Boise Police officers' insurance, they're able to seek that professional help whenever they need it, "No different than an officer twisting an ankle, you would not have a stigma preventing you from going to the doctor and getting that treated, so there shouldn't be a stigma in some of the emotional injuries that we encounter," said Winegar.
Winegar said there are many counselors in the area who are tuned into the specific culture of first responders.
During this 2019 legislative session, the state legislature passed a bill requiring worker's compensation to cover treatment for psychological trauma sustained by first responders while on the job.