In conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week, officials from law enforcement, the Texas Legislature and the UNT Dallas Caruth Police Institute gathered last week to raise awareness of the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network (TLEPN), an innovative, potentially life-saving resource that is available to Texas’ law enforcement officers.
The TLEPN was established in 2021 by the Texas Legislature, in response to a rising number of officers dying by suicide. In 2019, the number of officers in the United States who died by suicide was nearly double the number killed in the line of duty.
First of its kind in the country, the Peer Network is a statewide program designed to give every Texas law enforcement officer access to a trained peer to address stressors, trauma, fatigue, and other needs to combat workforce burnout and end police suicide and self-harm.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia, UNT Dallas Caruth Police Institute Vice Chair Zachary Flores, State Senator Royce West, TLEPN State Director Dustin Schellenger, and University of North Texas at Dallas President Bob Mong spoke at the event.
Senator Royce West said, “Our officers routinely witness firsthand our society’s most tragic events and most heinous acts. I am grateful that this resource is now available to them and proud to have co-authored the bill that created it.”
“The Caruth Police Institute’s Executive Advisory Board envisioned the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network as a resource for law enforcement officers across the State who have nowhere else to turn for help,” said Flores. “With the support of our Governor and the Legislature, we have now launched the Network and can see the positive impact it is having on our profession. We know the Network will save lives and will enable our officers to remain healthy and productive throughout their careers.”
Since the network’s creation in January 2022, 325 peers across the state have been trained and registered.
There have been 424 potential law enforcement users that have created an account, and the network has been utilized 44 times.
“Time and time again, the greatest barrier to help has been the stigma of job loss and the negative connotation of someone finding out that you need help. Our program is protected by law and offers an anonymous way to vent and discuss the hardships encountered,” said Schellenger. “The anonymity is a cornerstone of how we teach and prepare peers to help one another. We will continue to work diligently to earn the trust of the officers of this state one step at a time.”
UNT Dallas President Bob Mong said, “UNT Dallas is proud to join others in this important effort to reduce first responder suicides. We will not look away, we will act.”