PTSD a mounting problem
With post-traumatic stress disorder claims on the rise among police officers, the Burnsville City Council voted Tuesday to renew a contract for police mental health services.
The $31,650 contract for 2021 with mental health clinician Marie Ridgeway includes an annual mental health check-in for all officers, individual therapy sessions and check-ins with officers involved in critical incidents.
In addition to the check-ins, Ridgeway provided 27 therapy sessions to Burnsville officers in 2020. She specializes in trauma treatment and law enforcement and is the mental health training specialist for the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.
“Police officers respond to and witness traumatic events such as SIDS deaths, abused children, dead bodies, fatal accidents, severe assaults, and involvement in shootings,” said a report from Police Chief Tanya Schwartz. “Repeated trauma and stress exposure can impair the mental well-being of police officers and affect their ability to perform their duties.”
Waiting to seek help can lead to PTSD, which can lead to substance abuse, depression, anxiety and suicide, the report said.
“In 2018, legislation was enacted that included PTSD as a work-related injury for certain types of employees, including police officers,” it said. “Police officers are dying by suicide more often than they are being killed in the line of duty. In 2019, a record number of police officers committed suicide in the United States.”
In Minnesota, the costs of officer PTSD claims rose 62 percent in 2019, the League of Minnesota Cities reports. From 2016 through June 2019, PTSD claims totaled 28% of all police workers comp costs, compared with 6% from 2012 to 2015.
PTSD has become a “significant factor” for Minnesota’s work comp program, totaling more than 30% of annual claim costs — most coming from police departments, the report said.
Other services for the Burnsville Police Department include on-site services for the Crisis Negotiation Team, consultations during officer negotiations with people experiencing mental health crises, consultations during negotiations debriefings, two annual presentations for officers and training and consultation with the department’s Peer Support Team.
“The gains that can be made in working with an effective care provider versus the life-long, and often life-threatening costs of burying trauma are well worth the costs to protect those who protect all of us,” the report said.