New Model Policies

Mental Health Leave

[AGENCIES SHOULD NOTE THAT THIS MENTAL HEALTH POLICY IS REQUIRED UNDER SB 1359, CODIFIED AT CHAPTER 614, SUBCHAPTER A-1, GOVERNMENT CODE.  THE LAW IS EFFECTIVE SEPT. 1, 2021.  THE STATUTE REQUIRES THE USE OF SUCH LEAVE IN WORK-RELATED SITUATIONS.  PERSONAL TRAUMA, SUCH AS FAMILY ISSUES, IS NOT INCLUDED FOR USE OF SUCH MENTAL HEALTH LEAVE.  AGENCIES SHOULD NOTE THAT THE NEW LAW IS FAIRLY SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT IS TO BE ADDRESSED BY THIS POLICY.  THIS POLICY MAY BE INCORPORATED INTO EXISTING POLICY AS LONG AS THE AMENDMENT ADRESSES THE SPECIFIC STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS].

THE TEXT OF THE NEW LAW

Chapter 614, Government Code, is amended by adding Subchapter A-1 to read as follows:

SUBCHAPTER A-1.  MENTAL HEALTH LEAVE

Sec. 614.015.  MENTAL HEALTH LEAVE FOR PEACE OFFICERS.  (a)  In this section, "law enforcement agency" means an agency of the state or an agency of a political subdivision of the state authorized by law to employ peace officers.

(b)  Each law enforcement agency shall develop and adopt a policy allowing the use of mental health leave by the peace officers employed by the agency who experience a traumatic event in the scope of that employment.

(c)  The mental health leave policy adopted under this section must:

(1)  provide clear and objective guidelines establishing the circumstances under which a peace officer is granted mental health leave and may use mental health leave;

(2)  entitle a peace officer to mental health leave without a deduction in salary or other compensation;

(3)  enumerate the number of mental health leave days available to a peace officer; and

(4)  detail the level of anonymity for a peace officer who takes mental health leave.

(d)  The mental health leave policy adopted under this section may provide a list of mental health services available to peace officers in the area of the law enforcement agency.

SECTION 2.  As soon as practicable after the effective date of this Act, each law enforcement agency shall develop the mental health leave policy required by Section 614.015, Government Code, as added by this Act.

SECTION 3.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2021.

 

DRAFT MENTAL HEALTH LEAVE POLICY

Definitions

  1. Traumatic event – an event which occurs in the peace officer(s) scope of employment when the officer is involved in the response to, or investigation of, an event that causes the officer to experience unusually strong emotional reactions or feelings which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function during or after the incident.

Traumatic events may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Major disasters which may include response to weather related events involving multiple casualties; or explosions with multiple casualties; or search and recovery missions involving multiple casualties;
  2. Incidents involving multiple casualties which may include shootings or traffic accidents;
  3. Line of duty death or suicide of a department member;
  4. Death of a child resulting from violence or neglect;
  5. Officer(s) involved shooting of a person.
  6. Mental health leave – administrative leave with pay granted in response to a traumatic event that occurred in the scope of the peace officer’s employment.
  7. Mental Health Professional – a licensed social or mental health worker, counselor, psychotherapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.

 

Requesting mental health leave

An officer directly involved in a traumatic event may request the use of mental health leave.  The request shall be made in writing through the chain of command. The request shall be treated as a priority matter and a decision on the granting of the leave shall be made no later than 24 hours following the submission of the request.  The request shall be granted unless the chain of command can articulate specific compelling reasons to deny granting the leave.

]A supervisor or coworker who becomes aware of behavioral changes in an officer directly involved in a traumatic event should suggest to the officer that he or she seek mental health leave and the assistance of a mental health professional.  An officer’s failure to voluntarily seek mental health assistance shall be addressed by Policy _________________.] [OPTIONAL – THIS MAY ALREADY BE ADDRESSED IN EXISTING POLICY]

 

Confidentiality of request

Any request for mental health leave shall be treated as strictly confidential by all parties involved and shall not be discussed or disclosed outside the officer’s immediate chain of command, and only as necessary to facilitate the use of the leave.  Any officer or supervisor who becomes aware of behavioral changes and suggests the officer seek mental health leave shall not discuss that matter with any third party. Any breach of this confidentiality shall be grounds for discipline.

Confidentiality may be waived by the officer seeking mental health leave.  Confidentiality may be waived under circumstances which indicate the officer is a danger to himself or herself or others and department personnel must confer with mental health professionals.

 

Duration of mental health leave

An officer directly involved in a traumatic event may request up to three working days of mental health leave.

Extensions of mental health leave may be available under certain circumstances.  Any request for an extension shall be accompanied by documentation from a mental health professional who is counseling the officer.  The request may extend the leave by three working days.  Each officer may request no more than two extensions, each supported by sufficient documentation by the mental health professional.  The Chief shall grant the extension(s) upon the receipt of sufficient documentation explain the need for the extension. [NOTE – AGENCIES MAY ALREADY HAVE SOME OTHER MENTAL HEALTH PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM IN PLACE – IT COULD BE SUBSTITUTED FOR THE EXTENSIONS – AGENCY ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT IGNORING RECOMMENDATIONS OF MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS – EACH AGENCY SHOULD COORDINATE WITH BOTH HR AND LEGAL ON THIS MATTER].

 

Mental health services available to the officer

[AGENCIES SHOULD INCLUDE INFORMATION IN THIS SECTION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO THE OFFICER E.G. PEER SUPPORT GROUPS, EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS, LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMS OR PROFESSIONALS]

 

PAID QUARANTINE LEAVE POLICY                         

Statement of Purpose/Applicability

Pursuant to Texas Local Government Code Section 180.008, the City of                            hereby adopts this paid quarantine leave policy for fire fighters, peace officers, detention officers, and emergency medical technicians* who are employed by, appointed by, or elected to the city and ordered to quarantine or isolate due to a possible or known exposure to a communicable disease while on duty.

(Ref. Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code 180.008(b).)

Definitions

 (1) “Detention officer” means an individual appointed or employed by the City of         and whose job responsibilities include the care and custody of individuals incarcerated in the municipal jail.*

(2) “Emergency medical technician” means an individual who is employed by the city and certified as an emergency medical technician under Chapter 773, Health and Safety *

(3) “Fire fighter” means a paid employee of the city’s fire department who: (a) holds a position that requires substantial knowledge of firefighting; (b) has met the requirements for certification by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection under Chapter 419, Government Code; and (c) performs at least one of the following functions: (i) fire suppression; (ii) fire prevention; (iii) fire training; (iv) fire safety education; (v) fire maintenance; (vi) fire communications; (vii) fire medical emergency technology; (viii) fire photography; (ix) fire administration; or (x) fire arson *

(4) “Health authority” means a physician appointed by the city to administer state and local laws relating to public health within the city's jurisdiction. [not every city that employs one of the first responders defined herein as a health authority. If not, the policy could reference the county health authority.]

(5) “Paid quarantine leave” means: (1) all employment benefits and compensation, including leave accrual, pension benefits, and health benefit plan benefits provided by the city; and(2) if applicable, reimbursement for reasonable costs related to the quarantine, including lodging, medical, and transportation costs.

(6) “Peace officer” means police officers [may include others, such as marshals, some of whom may be elected] licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and employed by the *

(Ref. Texas Local Gov’t Code 180.008(a); 143.003(4)(A); Tex. Health & Safety Code 121.021; Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Art. 2.12.)

 

Quarantine Leave

 A City of                        fire fighter, peace officer, detention officer, or emergency medical technician* who is ordered to quarantine or isolate by the person’s supervisor or the city’s [or county’s if no city authority] health authority due to a possible or known exposure to a communicable disease while on duty is entitled to receive paid quarantine leave for the duration of the leave.

(Ref. Texas Local Gov’t Code 180.008(c).)

No Reduction in Compensation and Benefits

 The City of                          will not reduce a fire fighter’s, peace officer’s, detention officer’s, or emergency medical technician’s* sick leave balance, vacation leave balance, holiday leave balance, or other paid leave balance in connection with paid quarantine leave taken in accordance with this policy.

[*not every city will have every employee defined here. Adjust accordingly.]