Courtesy of Richards' office
City Councilman Donovan Richards, speaking at a recent 113th Precinct clergy meeting, introduced legislation to increase access to NYPD mental health programs as cop suicides spike this year.

When NYPD police officer Robert Echeverria, 56, committed suicide in Laurelton on Aug. 14, he became the ninth officer to kill himself already this year.

The list includes NYPD Deputy Chief Steven J. Silks, the 62-year-old deputy chief of Patrol Borough North Queens who was discovered dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on June 5, one month before his mandatory retirement.

In response to the series of suicides in the NYPD, City Council Public Safety Committee Chair Donovan Richards and Health Committee Chair Mark Levine introduced legislation on Sept. 12 that will seek to expand access and awareness of mental health services available to officers.

“The members of the NYPD respond to the most traumatic events we see in our city, which combined with all of the other struggles in life can often lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression,” Richards said. “No matter how tough a person is, sometimes they need help and they need to know who they can go to when the time comes. We want every member of service to do these sessions and have an annual reminder of the options that are available to them to address how they have been feeling. The NYPD is taking the right steps to address the current crisis among officer deaths by suicide, but we want to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to help the effort and eradicate the stigma that officers cannot come forward to get the professional help they need.”

Levine said “the heartbreaking number of suicides this year by active-duty and retired NYPD personnel should shock us into action.”

The bill would require the department to contract with a sufficient number of licensed clinicians to provide mental health support services to all NYPD officers, including those in special units. It would also mandate that annual first responder wellness sessions are available to all members of the service. These sessions would be conducted by licensed clinicians and would provide information to officers on mental health conditions and symptoms, available resources provided to the department and by third parties, peer-based organizations and offer personal consultations.

“If we are going to stop the suicide epidemic among our officers, we must find ways to break the stigma associated with mental health issues,” said Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, a co-sponsor of the bill. “NYPD officers are repeatedly exposed to traumatic encounters and events that take a tremendous toll on them. I am proud to join my colleagues is support of this important legislation that will provide the necessary support for these first responders.”

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