New Kentucky law funds mental health resources for law enforcement

Prestonsburg police say they have a mental health program and believe it’s important for all departments to have them.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 10:01 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Ten months after a deadly Floyd County ambush killed three officers and a K-9, the mental health impacts on law enforcement officers continue.

Prestonsburg police say they have a mental health program and believe it’s important for all departments to have them. Now, a new law provides funding to do just that.

This week, Governor Beshear signed House Bill 207, which helps law enforcement agencies create wellness programs for physical and mental health.

The night of June 30 is still fresh in the minds of the Prestonsburg Police and Floyd County Sheriff’s departments.

“What we went through last summer is something we will never get over,” said Brad Caldwell of the Prestonsburg Police Department.

That night, Deputy William Petry, Police Captain Ralph Frasure, Officer Jacob Chaffins and K-9 Drago were shot and killed in an ambush attack in Allen. Several other responders were severely injured.

“After the incident happened, the outpouring support from our community was tremendous,” said Powell. “From pastors and counselors, just your normal everyday citizens coming up asking, ‘anything we can do for ya?’”

While the community support has continued, the officers in the police department have also relied on a counseling program they had in place before the tragedy.

“We”ve always had partners within our community that’s been there for us, and let us come and talk to them if we needed somebody to talk to,” said Powell.

Officers and first responders see a lot of tragedy and trauma on the job. House Bill 207 is designed to help departments provide the resources they need to process hardships.

“Whether it be a shooting, a severe child abuse case, a homicide or even a fatal wreck to where an officer has to respond to, that takes a toll on the officer,” said Powell.

A toll that can impact how the officer is able to do their job and protect their community.

“Our officers are interacting with Kentuckians on their worst day, so it’s essential that we ensure they are mentally healthy and have addressed any trauma they’ve experienced,” said Governor Beshear after signing the bill.

Under the bill, all sessions and information discussed in the wellness programs will remain confidential under counselor-client privilege.