Staff Report

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has been awarded grant funding by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (LEMHWA) Program. 

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office plans to use the $123,596 in grant funds to establish a peer support program and an “in-house” support resource for employees and their family members in the event of a professional or personal crisis. 

“The law enforcement profession is a profoundly noble one — but often comes with a cost,”  said Dr. Cherylynn Lee, co-founder of the Peer Support team. “Cumulative stress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress are becoming better recognized within law enforcement as a major component of police work.” 

Lee continued that peer support is a well-recognized best practice for the first responder community that allows for specially trained peers to have a formal role of supporting personnel. 

“Peer support programs have shown to improve emotional and psychological well-being, reduce stress, improve relationships, and improve overall quality of life for first responders,” Lee said. “We are grateful to have secured this funding to offer this resource to members of our department.” 

Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act funds are used to improve the delivery of and access to mental health and wellness services for law enforcement through the implementation of peer support, training, family resources, suicide prevention and other promising practices for wellness reform. The 2021 LEMHWA program funded projects that develop knowledge, increase awareness of effective mental health and wellness strategies, increase the skills and abilities of law enforcement, and increase the number of law enforcement agencies and relevant stakeholders using peer programs. For more information about the LEMHWA program, please call the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770 or visit the COPS Office website at .