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Two new state funds related to public safety will start up in August

Gov. Mike Parson has signed legislation to set up two new funds: one to support nonprofits working in high-crime areas and another to establish a stress management program for law enforcement officers. 

The legislation, Senate Bill 57, also requires that all law enforcement officers go through a mental health check-in every three to five years.

“At the heart of SB 57 is the desire to strengthen our communities,” said Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, who sponsored the bill. “By investing in communities in crisis, we can create new opportunities that address the root cause of crime. At the same time, we need to support our law enforcement officers and ensure they have the resources they need to serve our communities to the fullest.”

The law, which goes into effect on August 28, establishes an “Economic Distress Zone Fund.” Its administrator, the Department of Public Safety, will provide the funding to nonprofit organizations that serve residents in “areas of high incidents of crime and deteriorating infrastructure.” 

This refers to cities with a homicide rate of at least seven times the national average based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System, a poverty rate that exceeds 20 percent and has a school district with at least 80 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

“I have advocated for a more comprehensive approach to addressing crime, one that goes beyond traditional policing alone,” May said. “Through strategic investment and by working with folks on the ground, I believe the Economic Distress Fund will allow us to make a real difference and lift up communities struggling the most.”

The law also establishes the “988 Public Safety Fund” to support a Critical Incident Stress Management Program within the Department of Public Safety. The program will assist officers in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma after a critical incident or emotionally difficult event. Some of these services will include consultation, risk assessment, education and intervention.

The law also requires officers to meet with a program service provider once every three to five years for a mental health check-in. That provider will then send a notification to the commanding officers that they completed the check-in. 

May said the idea for the fund came from speaking with officers themselves.

“It’s no secret that police officers have an incredibly difficult job,” May said. “The stress and trauma of the job can wear down even the best officers over time. When that happens, it’s important they have the resources needed to cope. My legislation ensures officer wellbeing is a priority, and that those resources are there to those in need.”

This article by Rebecca Rivas is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.

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