Loudoun County, VA – As law enforcement agencies and other first responders confront a nationwide rise in suicides, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) is working to further assist deputies with the emotional and mental stress they face on a daily basis.
Over the past several years, the LCSO has developed multiple tiered mental health support systems within the agency to promote and ensure an environment of psychological wellness. All of the mental health and employee assistance programs offered by the LCSO and provided by Loudoun County are 100% confidential.
As September marks National Suicide Prevention Month, Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman is joining the Major County Sheriffs of America and law enforcement agencies nationwide to offer employees help and to help change minds. “For the past three years police suicides have outnumbered line-of-duty deaths across the nation,” said Sheriff Chapman. “We want to change the stigma that asking for help is a weakness, and to let our employees know that there are resources available that can assist them with the stresses and challenges of their personal lives and careers.”
The programs available include a Peer-to-Peer (Critical Incident Stress Management) support team consisting of 27 deputies and four civilians within the agency, as well as four Loudoun County Mental Health Clinicians. This program allows deputies with concerns or issues to talk confidentially with their counterparts and other county government personnel. The agency also works with police psychologists who hold mandatory meetings with detectives from the Criminal Investigations Division. This program is being expanded in November 2019 to include Activities of Daily Living (ADL) training for front-line supervisors. This ADL program will teach supervisors how to recognize life stressors through an employee’s performance on a day-to-day basis.
The LCSO has joined our community partners with the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program (VALEAP) and Boulder Crest to offer additional outside services to our staff. VALEAP is a nonprofit program that provides additional peer support and mental health services to all participants. The program was established in 2008, in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. LCSO Deputies also have access to the Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes (PAATH) through our neighbors at the Boulder Crest Retreat in Bluemont to assist with post-traumatic stress. This program promotes traumatic growth and self-care for our employees.
Over the past eight years, many mental health support programs have been expanded and other programs were developed to further assist LCSO staff:
• The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free therapy sessions ranging from marriage counseling to substance abuse assistance for staff. As of July 1, 2019, the EAP was expanded from four free sessions to eight free sessions for employees and their immediate family members.
• In 2015, Sheriff Chapman implemented the first-ever Chaplain Unit within the LCSO. The unit consists of four chaplains who cover each station area in Loudoun County. The chaplains respond to scenes to assist the victim’s family and deputies. They also attend roll calls.
• LCSO deputies and civilian employees continue to receive mandatory wellness roll call training annually. This training was implemented in 2018/2019.
• The LCSO initiated Crisis Intervention Training in 2012. Today, 100% of all LCSO deputies with two or more years of service are CIT trained. This not only enables our deputies to address mental health issues with the citizens we serve but allows them to recognize any behaviors of concern among their co-workers.
• The LCSO implemented a wellness seminar (wellness resources, building resiliency and self-care) as part of their Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). This is taught for all new recruits attending the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy.
• Established the Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center which provides individuals experiencing a mental health emergency the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional for evaluation, crisis intervention, and stabilization services.
• Each deputy must also undertake an Occupational Health physical that includes an overall health assessment that is validated by a physician.
The LCSO also continues to work with the Loudoun First Responders Foundation (LFRF) who provide support to any Loudoun County public safety officer (and their families) facing needs arising from injury, illness, and conditions suffered in the line of duty.