Florida Attorney General Hosts First Mental Health, Criminal Justice Roundtable In Tampa

May 16, 2019
Originally published on May 19, 2019 6:36 pm

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody - flanked by Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister - led a discussion in Tampa Wednesday about ways to end mental health stigma and prevent law enforcement officer suicides.

It’s the first discussion in a summer roundtable series about mental health challenges within the criminal justice system.

Florida has the fourth highest number of active and retired officers who die by suicide, according to a recent report by nonprofit law enforcement service provider Blue H.E.L.P. 

In 2018 - for the third straight year - the number of officers who died by suicide outnumbered those who died in the line of duty.

"We give them vests; we give them guns; they have tasers to protect themselves, to help them accomplish the mission of protecting the public,” Moody said.

“But we sometimes fail at making sure they have the necessary resources to be prepared mentally, and that they can recover from what they see and experience on a daily basis. And so today's roundtable discussion was a first step in making sure we do better.”

Moody moderated as officers shared ideas about employee assistance programs, grief counseling, meditation and boxing sessions, and more.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister shared his agency’s resiliency plan, the first of its kind in its 174-year-history. It includes meditation and boxing sessions, and unlimited visits with a mental health professional.

“Today was a tremendous success, in the simple fact that we began to have discussions of changing the negative stigma surrounding mental health. And when it comes to law enforcement, we’re no exception,” Chronister said.

“We have to make sure these problem solvers are the healthiest versions of themselves, before they're able to go out and be the most productive law enforcement and problem solvers they can be.”

The next two roundtable discussions will focus on addressing mental health needs of suspected criminals before and after arrest. The next event will be held at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on June 26.