Connecticut State Police and other departments across the state are prioritizing the mental health and physical well-being of their officers by offering unique resources and services, including peer support programs and gym equipment, so their officers can stay balanced and healthy.
Former Hartford Police Chief James Rovella made it a goal to invest in the wellness of employees after being appointed commissioner of the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection in 2019.
“It’s about, how do you maintain your highest-cost assets?” he said.
Rovella, known for making changes to traditional policing, has overseen the implementation of resources and services such as peer support programs, exercise equipment to stay active during the pandemic and the use of emotional support dogs for six DESPP divisions, including state police.
The agency’s State Troopers Offering Peer Support (STOPS) program allows officers to discuss problems confidentially with specially trained employees at an off-site location. The program also provides spiritual support from chaplains.
Sergeant Christine Jeltema, the agency’s wellness coordinator, says the agency aims to provide financial, physical fitness and emotional support to its employees as part of a “holistic” approach to wellness.
“We make sure that employees are well-rounded,” Jeltema told CTNewsJunkie.com. “If someone is having some type of stressor, we want to get them help.”
In addition to peer support services, the agency also offers six sessions of free counseling with a professional mental health clinician every year.
Rovella has made use of asset forfeiture money obtained during drug raids and grant money to pay for the physical exercise equipment and emotional support dogs.
Commenting on the purpose of the STOP program, Jeltema said, “It’s for anything that could cause some type of stress for the employees outside of work. We try and look at the whole picture and be proactive. If they are having a problem with alcohol or anger management, we want to get them help.”
Supervisors can also refer employees who are struggling to see a licensed a clinician affiliated with the department.
The STOP program consists of 74 troopers trained in peer-to-peer counseling, along with 17 chaplains to provide spiritual support.
Rovella has also received a grant for $64,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services for further training in peer support, wellness and mental health for officer across the state. He says the program will allow every police department in the state to have at least one officer trained in peer counseling.
“This is an investment into troopers, their families and DESPP employees,” he said.