Funds from a private donation will go toward supporting officer mental health in the Jordan Police Department.
Police Chief Brett Empey said he’s been looking for a way to start a program like this for years. During his 22 years in Jordan, he’s seen many officers affected by high levels of job-related stress. The high pressure of responding to critical incidents can build up and weigh on officers over time, and Empey said he has seen the tension impact officers’ family life, decision-making skills and attitudes while on the job.
The job can have a deep and negative impact on mental health, too. Suicide rates among police officers are double that of the average nationwide, Empey said. Here in Scott County, Empey knows officers who left early in their career due to job-related stress and post-traumatic stress issues.
“You can’t look in somebody’s face and know what they’re going through mentally,” said Empey.
Recently Jordan resident Jim Bastyr made a $1,000 donation in memory of his parents, Maynard and Lil Bastyr, longtime Jordan residents and supporters of the Jordan Police Department.
These funds enabled the department to start a contract with licensed counselor Rachel Peterson. Peterson, a former police officer herself, has experience working with the issues officers commonly deal with, including PTSD.
Officers can reach out to Peterson directly to set up an hour-long counseling session to talk through whatever is on their mind. Empey said though he’ll receive the bill each month, he won’t know which officers use the service or when, allowing them a level of anonymity he hopes will encourage them to seek the help they need.
“I just want there to be an outlet for them to go to to help them get better before it affects them negatively in their personal lives,” said Empey.
Empey hopes the $1,000 grant will last through the beginning of 2021. After that point, the department will assess the success of the program and look into budgeting funds toward continuing it.
He also hopes the program will act as a proactive approach to supporting officer mental health, a benefit to the community in the long term.
“An officer who has a clear head, who’s thinking properly and is not over-stressed, they’re going to be delivering better services to our community,” said Empey. “They’re going to be more compassionate, more understanding. This is one way we’re ensuring that that’s what we’re providing to our community.”