The AOC Public Safety and Legislative Committees unanimously supported two bills that were the product of a work group held over the past year to support mental health in law enforcement. The work group was convened by Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) after he introduced a bill that would have required all law enforcement officers in the state to get a yearly psychological exam. The bill drew opposition from AOC and other local governments, public safety groups, and mental health organizations, but led to the formation of the work group which studied mental health and wellness.
The two bills – Senate Bill (SB) 423 and 424 – had wide support from the work group and sailed through AOC Day on Jan. 14 as commissioners met for the first meeting of the new year. SB 423 requires all law enforcement agencies to conduct pre-employment psychological screenings, which is already practiced by most agencies. A recent survey conducted showed that a small handful of small agencies did not always conduct these screenings. SB 424 requires law enforcement agencies to establish mental health wellness policies for law enforcement officers. Many departments are already forming such policies and programs to support. Bend Police Department recently launched a yoga and mindfulness program for officers, reducing on-the-job injuries.
The AOC Public Safety Committee voted to oppose HB 2418, which would drastically change workers compensation in a way that would make it nearly impossible for an employer and insurance carrier to deny claims. The language of the bill is also broad enough that part-time volunteers are included and the type of mental illness is not specified. The AOC Public Safety Committee joined a coalition including the sheriffs, police chiefs, cities, special districts, and insurance carriers (SAIF and Citycounty Insurance Services) in opposing the bill. The bill is pending a vote by the AOC Legislative Committee.
“We need to focus on tackling these important issues at the front end, not the back end,” said Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich, who co-chairs the AOC Public Safety Committee.
Contributed by: Patrick Sieng | AOC Legislative Manager