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Improving officer wellness: Funding initiatives for mental health support

Federal, state and private funding sources are available for peer support and other mental health and wellness programs within your agency


The federal government strengthened its recognition of the effects of occupational stress on law enforcement by recently enacting the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017.

The law directs that the government provide funding and other resources to:

  • Support police officer peer mentoring programs;
  • Train mental health professionals on challenges faced by officers;
  • Study the effectiveness of crisis hotlines for law enforcement officers.
Consider these funding options or encourage your community leaders to fund peer mentoring or other mental health and wellness programs. (Photo/PoliceOne)
Consider these funding options or encourage your community leaders to fund peer mentoring or other mental health and wellness programs. (Photo/PoliceOne)

One of the components of the law makes grants available for peer mentoring pilot programs, similar to those operating within the Department of Defense and Veteran’s Affairs. The grant funding would come through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office because the law expanded the allowable uses of COPS funding to include establishing peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs within State, tribal and local law enforcement agencies. Funding was put on hold this fiscal year due to immigration litigation, but it is expected that grants will be offered in the upcoming 2019 Fiscal Year.

Other funding options for officer mental health and wellness programs

While we wait for this COPS funding to become available, you may want to consider other federal, state and private funding sources available for peer support and other mental health and wellness programs within your agency.

Here are some to consider:

1. BJA Justice Assistance Grants

These federal grants are offered annually through either your state administering agency or directly to certain eligible local governments. This year, officer safety and wellness are part of the focus areas BJA is encouraging applicants to target. BJA sees a vital need to focus not only on tactical officer safety concerns, but also on health and wellness as they affect officer performance and safety.

2. VALOR – BJA

The mission of the Officer Robert Wilson III Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) Initiative is to provide education and tools to prevent violence against police officer and enhance their safety, wellness and resilience. A total of $15 million is proposed in the FY 2019 budget for grants under this program.

3. National Institute of Justice - NIJ Research and Evaluation in Safety, Health, and Wellness in the Criminal Justice System

In 2018, NIJ offered grants focused on the health, safety and wellness of those within the criminal justice system. One of the objectives of this grant solicitation was to “promote research to improve the physical and mental health of individuals working in the criminal justice system.” Developing and evaluating officer peer mentoring programs could be one area to propose and seek funding under this program. It is anticipated that similar grants will be made available next year.

Corporate and Private Foundations

Many corporate and private foundations offer grants to assist with officer mental health and wellness.

1. Health organization foundations

Consider applying to health organization foundations such as Anthem/Blue Cross and Blue Shield or The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  

  • Anthem’s Program Grants are available to community agencies in over 25 states where the insurance company operates.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson (Johnson & Johnson Corp. founder) Foundation annually offers its Pioneering Ideas program grants that look for cutting-edge ideas from other fields to health or taking an existing idea and give it a new spin.

2. Local foundations

An example of a locally based foundation includes the Greg Lindmark Foundation. This foundation is geographically focused in Northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin with the goal to reduce the impact of cumulative stress and trauma on first responders by providing awareness, education and confidential counseling. Annual fundraising events support these programs to local officers.

3. Community foundations

Community foundations across the country support law enforcement health and wellness initiatives. Examples include:

  • Community Foundation of Texas: Backing the Blue is a $15 million grant to the Dallas Police Department to fund critical equipment needs, study best police practices and prepare leaders in the Dallas PD to become better educated, better trained officers who effectively protect and serve the citizens of that city.
  • Great Falls Police Community Foundation: The funding is dedicated to help this Montana community keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, strategies and training. Videos created with the funding highlight the risks and challenges the officers face daily.
  • Code3 Foundation: This foundation, which is focused on the Metro Washington D.C. area, has supported numerous projects to educate, equip and empower police with tools and resources while also creating conditions for officers and community members to work together. Among its many awarded grants includes one to Prince William County PD to establish a wellness and resiliency unit.  

Consider these funding options or encourage your community leaders to fund peer mentoring or other mental health and wellness programs for officers affected by the dangerous and often stressful job of keeping our communities safe every day. 

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