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Cop-focused mental health program aims to erase the stigma of seeking help for trauma

Bank the Blue aims to quickly connect officers in need of help with psychologists who are experts in dealing with police trauma.

Attorney Dan Herbert speaks during a press conference on the Northwest Side Thursday to announce the launch of “Bank the Blue,” a non-profit organization designed to support Chicago and Cook County area police officers through mental health and support services.
Attorney Dan Herbert announces the launch of Bank the Blue, a nonprofit organization designed to support police officers through mental health and support services.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

When a police officer is in crisis, he or she often needs help right away — and from someone who truly understands the trauma particular to a cop working in communities rife with gun violence.

That’s part of the thinking behind a new initiative called “Bank the Blue,” a cop-focused mental health program that’s expected to be available to any officer working in Cook County. It isn’t affiliated with a police department.

“The are some very well-intentioned and dedicated people who have done a lot of good with respect to mental health. It’s come leaps and bounds. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not enough,” said Dan Herbert, a Chicago attorney, former Chicago police officer and one of the founders of Bank the Blue.

The program, unveiled Thursday, aims to quickly connect officers in need of help with psychologists who are experts in dealing with police trauma. And organizers hope the program will attract clients who may feel they need help but are worried that talking to a supervisor could get them in trouble or fired.

“When you put that uniform on and you go to work every day, it’s an expectation that’s never told to you, but it’s obvious you’re not supposed to have emotion,” said Jeff Salvetti, another founder of the program and a former Chicago police officer. “You’re not supposed to care about working 13 days in a row, 12 hours a day, not seeing your family, missing your kids’ events ...”

Salvetti, as co-founder of Blue Star Security Ltd., said he has some 600 Chicago police officers working for the company. Last year, three of them committed suicide, he said.

Salvetti said many officers simply don’t know where to turn when they’re dealing with a personal crisis.

“When you get that call from an officer at a bar ... he doesn’t need help Thursday at 2 p.m. when you can get him in for an appointment. He needs someone to go pick him up that minute and get him somewhere five minutes later,” Salvetti said.

Ultimately, the goal is to heal officers’ mental wounds and in so doing, make them better poilce officers, organizers say.

To learn more about the program, go to www.banktheblue.com.