Senator Steve Cwodzinski Celebrates Start of New Law Enforcement Mental Health Training Program

2023 Legislation Will Provide Better Mental Health Support for Law Enforcement Officers

ST. PAUL, Minn. — On January 19, the Adler Graduate School will launch a specialized training for therapists to learn how to more effectively support members of law enforcement and their families through mental health challenges. Senator Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie) praised the start of the new program, which is funded through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety thanks to a grant created by his bill (SF 1087) in the 2023 legislative session.

“Starting this week, Minnesota law enforcement will have more of the support they need to be healthy and well. Police officers regularly walk into dangerous and unpredictable situations in their line of work, and they live with the trauma and mental health struggles that go along with that. This training for counselors will create the support network these officers need to manage the stress of their work in a positive way,” said Senator Cwodzinski. “As we worked on this legislation, I spoke with police officers across the state, and it’s clear: Minnesota’s law enforcement needs our help. It was an honor to collaborate with the Adler Graduate School and law enforcement professionals as we championed this funding. This program will provide Minnesota’s mental health professionals with the training they need to support officers as they work to make our communities safe.”

“Many officers don’t seek help because most therapists have little understanding of the unique circumstances of police work,” says Solange Ribeiro, president of Adler Graduate School, a local institution that trains mental health professionals.  “Trust is a major determinant of whether they will seek out, let alone succeed in, counseling. The lack of understanding of this profession limits a counselor’s ability to provide effective treatment. Our goal is to provide training so therapists can help officers better manage their trauma, burnout, and stress responses.”

“The more we support public safety professionals in their health and well-being, the better they will be able to develop coping strategies and handle critical incidents with greater success,” said Scott Boerboom, Minnetonka Chief of Police. “Most wellness resources available to police officers lack understanding of the cultural and behavioral landscape of law enforcement, which limits their ability to provide quality services to this population. Receiving help from trained counselors will make law enforcement personnel less likely to leave police work, experience fewer family dysfunctions, and reduce the number of police suicides.” 

“Police officers see the worst of people and good people at their worst,” said LeAnne Renteria, a therapist and former police officer who testified in support of the bill. “No one walks away from police work unscathed… It’s a challenge to find people who really understand what it’s like on the job. From my personal experience and from the work I do, I can tell you that we need more therapists trained to give law enforcement the support they need so in turn they can do their best work possible.”

In 2022, the Adler Graduate School created a task force to determine how its programming could help mental health professionals and the broader community around police relations. The task force, which was composed of therapists, law enforcement professionals and trauma experts, concluded that Minnesota has a lack of qualified counselors to support police officers. 

The new program will educate 150 licensed therapists from across Minnesota on the culture and challenges faced by law enforcement personnel and their families. A directory of these trained professionals will be provided to law enforcement agencies in spring of 2024 and 2025.

Steve Cwodzinski represents District 49 in the southwest Twin Cities metro.

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