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Program Addresses Mental Health Among Law Enforcement

St. Petersburg College in Florida has launched a new Applied Mental Health Certificate for Law Enforcement Program to equip law enforcement professionals and first responders with essential tools to navigate mental health issues within the community while managing the inherent stressors of their roles.

Dr. Tonjua WilliamsDr. Tonjua Williams"This program isn't just about protecting the community; it's about protecting those who protect us," said Dr. Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College. "By equipping law enforcement and first responders with knowledge and skills, we can help create a safer and more empathetic environment in the community."

Through the program, officers gain skills (such as counseling skills and interview techniques) and knowledge to navigate complex mental health situations, both in their own ranks and within the communities they serve. They, becoming mental health liaisons in their departments, learn to identify mental health issues that need assessment in professional practice.

The first cohort of 14 officers from Tampa Bay area police departments is expected to complete training in the summer 2024.

"This program marks a significant step in making sure people facing mental health challenges get the understanding and assistance they deserve," said Jonathan Vazquez, president of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association and an experienced officer with 15 years of service and an Army veteran.

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