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Program paving way for officers to get mental health help: "To police well, you have to be well"

November 29, 2022

Program paving way for officers to get mental health help: "To police well, you have to be well"

MIAMI – One South Florida program is paving the way to help law enforcement officers get the mental health help they need.

The Community Police Relations Foundation, paired with Boulder Crest, a non-profit for veterans, has been holding intensive mental health seminars at the South Florida PBA. The program, known as Struggle Well, has helped over 2,000 officers.

The Community Police Relations Foundation's goal is to unite the community with law enforcement, and Struggle Well is another tool to help.

Al Eskanazy, CEO and Chairman of CPRF, says this program is about helping officers who put their lives on the line every single day.

He told CBS4, "To police well, you have to be well. That's what we want to do. Police reform, to us, is giving officers the opportunity for mental wellbeing, and it's working very, very well."

Eskanazy added, "The programs are five-day programs. You must understand how difficult it is for a chief of police to give up an officer for five days. But they do it because the results are so clear."

Two South Florida police chiefs attest to the program's success.

Manny Morales from the City of Miami Police Department said, "The things that they see and hear. You can't unsee and you can't unhear. They will be etched in your memory and your heart and your soul."

Morales added, "So, as we give them the tools. You have to give them the resources, the tools and the training to not only protect the community, but protect themselves, and this is where Struggle Well comes in."

Rene Landa, the chief of the South Miami Police Department, told CBS4, "Officers have really opened. That's never been heard of. Police officers do not open up. They never have. It's a culture we have that you can't show any type of weakness."

CBS4 spoke with Jody Wright, a sergeant with the Miami-Dade Police Department, who wants to take part in Struggle Well. She was one of the officers involved in a shootout back in 2007 that claimed the life of Jose Somohano.

Wright tells CBS4 she knows a lot of people have heard her story, but she is also eager to share it herself.

She said, "I think a lot of officers that don't know me hear the things that I've gone through. And I'm still here, I'm still standing, I'm still working, and anything is possible."

Wright was shot in the leg and has undergone 30 surgeries to help her get back on her feet. She tells CBS4 her positive mentality keeps her going each day.

Soon, the Struggle Well program will expand to be peer to peer, where other officers can look for signs amongst their colleagues so they can help one another as well.

The Community Police Relations Foundations is mainly involved with law enforcement agencies in New York and South Florida, but has started branching out to other areas like Los Angeles and Chicago.

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