Monday, August 21, 2023
Texas leads the nation in suicides by law enforcement officers. The stress of the job and the perceived stigma of seeking help can be overwhelming.
To address those issues and the urgent need for solutions, The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in collaboration with the Caruth Police Institute (CPI) at The University of North Texas at Dallas (UNT Dallas) are launching the Texas Blue Chip Program, a groundbreaking initiative offering law enforcement officers confidential and free mental health services.
In response to events such as the May 2023 mass shooting at a shopping mall in Allen, TX., the Texas Blue Chip Program is now operational for police officers across the Dallas-Fort Worth and greater North Texas region.
The Texas Blue Chip Program introduces specially designed poker chips that are accessible at police stations throughout the region and virtually through the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network (TLEPN) app. These chips grant an officer access to discreet and confidential counseling sessions with selected mental health providers who are supported by the program through generous funding from Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) via CFT’s Support for Allen Fund.
The CPI at UNT Dallas operates the TLEPN, an innovative, statewide peer support initiative accessible around the clock to all law enforcement officers in Texas. This confidential and anonymous network seamlessly connects officers with trained peers equipped to assist with managing stress, trauma, fatigue, and various other challenges. The overarching goal is to tackle workforce burnout, self-harm, and suicide head-on, ensuring the holistic well-being of those who commit themselves to safeguarding our communities.
The Meadows Institute drew on the expertise of Chief Will Johnson, who chairs the Police Professional Standards, Ethics, and Images Committee at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The result is an adaptable program based on the successful Blue Chip initiative originally introduced by Chief Johnson during his leadership tenure at the Arlington, TX. Police Department.
According to B.J. Wagner, senior vice president of health and public safety at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, "While officers may have avenues for private mental health care through insurance or peer networks, many still hesitate to seek help, even in the aftermath of traumatic incidents. The Texas Blue Chip Program offers an additional anonymous channel through which officers can obtain assistance on their own terms."
Following its introduction throughout North Texas, MMHPI and TLEPN expect to extend the program's reach statewide. The Texas Blue Chip Program stands as a vital support system for law enforcement personnel during the most challenging junctures of their careers.
Jeff Spivey, executive director of the Caruth Police Institute at The University of North Texas at Dallas (UNT Dallas) and Chair of the IACP Officer Safety and Wellness Section emphasizes, "Whether confronting extreme weather events, mass shootings, fatal traffic incidents, or the chronicity of day-to-day police work, the Texas Blue Chip Program is designed to provide support precisely when officers need it the most. Neglecting to address the repercussions of these experiences can lead to unmanaged stressors, contributing to heightened risks of post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, and suicide. It is our duty to offer resources and support to those who dedicate their lives to ensuring the safety and well-being of our communities."
In order to access mental health services digitally, download the TLEPN app, get an access code from MyTCOLE, select a peer from the list, and reach out for help or contact the network by phone at (972) 336-1314 or by email at TLEPN@untdallas.edu.If someone needs immediate help, they can call 1-800-COPLINE.
“Hundreds of individuals, families, and businesses donated to support CFT’s Support for Allen Fund in the wake of the recent tragic shooting at Allen Premium Outlets. We know that law enforcement officers are deeply affected by both short-term and long-term trauma following a mass shooting event, and we knew that some of the dollars raised through our Support for Allen Fund should be earmarked to support those who were on the frontline as they process and heal from what they experienced, said Wende Burton, Chief Philanthropy Officer at Communities Foundation of Texas. "We are grateful to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network for providing a safe and confidential way for our local frontline responders and their families to access the mental health support services they need.”
The urgency of this program is underscored by the distressing statistic that Texas recorded the highest number of law enforcement officer suicides of any state in 2022, with a total of 16 lives lost.
Launched in 2014, the Meadows Institute helps Texas legislators, state officials, members of the judiciary, and local, state, and national leaders identify equitable systemic solutions to mental health needs and has become Texas’s most trusted source for data-driven mental health policy.
The mission of Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) is to improve the lives of all people in our community by investing in their health, wealth, living, and learning. CFT works to accomplish this by growing community giving, expanding community impact, and advancing community equity. With a vision of building thriving communities for all, CFT works locally and across the state with many individuals, families, companies, foundations, and nonprofits through a variety of charitable funds and strategic grantmaking initiatives. CFT professionally manages more than 1,200 charitable funds and has awarded more than $2.5 billion in grants since its founding in 1953.
Through generous funding and purposeful collaboration, the Texas Blue Chip Program aims to save lives and protect the very people who protect us.
From UNT Dallas News - Caruth Police Institute