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Buffalo Police provide more backup to officers suffering with mental health issues

Trained volunteer officers will reach out to help any colleague or their family members suffering from a mental health condition.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Police officers will now have some additional backup for dealing with what are sometimes debilitating mental health issues.

This announcement follows the disturbing news we reported last week that five Buffalo officers had died from suicide since 2021

We see the flashing lights and maybe the blue uniform and badge, but we may forget the person. The men and women who sometimes may take the terrible things that they see and experience on the job home with them.

As Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia puts it: "They have the same stresses at home that everybody has, and now you compound these things, and that's what leads to the issues that we get. So this, we hope, is going to get our members when they start to feel some of those pressures, before they get to a position where it may be too late."

The commissioner referenced the new full-time assignment of officer Matt Cross to specifically head up a peer counseling program. Trained volunteer officers under his guidance will now more-so reach out to help any colleague or their family members suffering from a mental health condition.

"To allow us to focus more on being progressive and proactive. A lot of times we are reactive because these things just come up out of nowhere. I want to continue to push and grow our peer team," Cross said.

"I would like to further educate out peer team. I'd like to further educate our department. Equipping our members with the ability to cope and deal with certain things that they see on the job, knowing they have avenues to reach out to is going to be the biggest thing."

Cross added: "We dispatch from home. We dispatch from station houses. We drop what we're doing to be with our officers and family members. Speaking of family, when things do happen with these officers, we do provide a family advocate to the family. Anything they need from the moment, it happens until they tell us they're OK, or OK with us backing away a little bit." 

That includes making sure they are aware of department backed specific counseling. That was also pushed by Buffalo South District Councilman Chris Scanlon, who personally knew some of those officers who took their own lives.

"I must be honest. This is bittersweet to be here because we're doing this on the heels of a tremendous amount of loss within the police department and throughout this community," Scanlon said.

While this announcement was focused on Buffalo Police, Mayor Byron Brown says a similar effort will also be available soon for Buffalo firefighters, who also have to handle the worst experiences at times.

"I know that Commissioner Gramaglia and Commissioner Renaldo have had a number of conversations about that, so you will see programming for mental health and wellness in the fire department as well," the mayor said.

A team of mental health experts from the U.S. Justice Department will soon be in Buffalo to assess the mental health counseling and support program for the police department and offer recommendations to make it even more effective.

There is also a federal mental health program for law enforcement officers.  


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