Biden Admin Offers Emotional Support Dogs to Border Patrol After Fourteen Suicides in 2022

US

The Biden administration is offering emotional support dogs to stressed out Border Patrol agents after fourteen suicides in 2022. An announcement was made last week about the program.

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Press release:

WASHINGTON – This week U.S. Border Patrol agents and their furry, four-legged canine partners began a journey and mission to help improve the mental health of the Border Patrol workforce nationwide.

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A training course taking place in Cherry Valley, California is geared toward the mental and physical health of the workforce that is challenged everyday protecting our nation’s border. A new Support Canine Program will promote the Border Patrol’s mission, vision, and values by helping reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in the workforce.

“The events Border Patrol Agents face leave little time to assess the emotional, spiritual, and psychological effects, and less time to repair themselves from the levels of trauma and crisis they deal with every day,” said Executive Director Kathleen Scudder. “These special dogs will help improve emotional availability, allowing their Chaplain and Peer Support Member handlers to start important conversations that can lead to quicker recovery and healing in a stressful environment.”

To address the ever-changing environments, canine teams will strive to improve staff morale, assist in grief, mitigate trauma from critical incidents, and engage in community outreach. Resiliency is integral to the agency’s culture and values, and the program will be an essential addition to USBP’s resiliency efforts.

Border Patrol Chaplains and Peer Support Members will serve as the new Support Canine handlers, providing emotional care while maintaining confidentiality. These carefully selected professionals are certified and trained in various emotional and psychological health techniques and are designated under federal law to have confidentiality requirements and responsibilities within the federal government.

The US Border Patrol remains committed to providing our workforce and their families with resources and programs that help promote a balanced, healthy approach to life in the workplace and at home.

Last month a bi-partisan measure was put forth in Congress to address the spike in suicides by Border Patrol agents. (Excerpt)

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Congressmen Gonzales, Cuellar Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent CBP Suicides

U.S. Representatives Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) on Wednesday introduced the Taking Action to Prevent Suicide (TAPS) Act. The TAPS Act creates a comprehensive, anti-suicide task force to assess the underlying factors leading to high suicide rates at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This legislation is endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).

“This year, 14 CBP agents and officers have taken their own life – that is 14 too many,” said Congressman Tony Gonzales. “Working long hours and responding to high-stress situations, our men and women in green and blue are being pushed to their breaking point every single day. I am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with the support of my colleagues to help prevent the loss of another life at CBP.”

“The ongoing border crisis has highlighted the increased challenges CBP employees face every single day. Although the workforce has been dealing with suicides for many years, DHS has only recently tried to get a handle on it, and there is much to learn. We are happy to support this legislation in the hopes that we can encourage more employees to come forward for help,” said the National Border Patrol Council.

“Three CBP agents committed suicide last month. That marks 14 total suicides this year alone, almost more than any other year since 2007, when suicides were first tracked by CBP. This is unacceptable,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar. “The TAPs Act is a bipartisan measure designed to prevent further loss of life among CBP agents. I thank Rep. Tony Gonzales for his leadership and bipartisanship in working with me to deliver for the men and women in green and blue. As Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide relief for the CBP agents that keep South Texas safe.”

Background:

Three Border Patrol agents committed suicide over the course of three weeks in November. This brings the 2022 suicide count at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to a staggering 14.
This is part of a larger and historic trend. Between 2007 and November 2022, CBP has lost 149 people to suicide- among the highest rates compared to other law enforcement agencies.
Recent appropriations have led to the hiring of additional mental health clinicians at CBP. However, there is still a shortage of mental health support, education, and destigmatization at the agency.

In 2020, the last year under President Trump, there were eight suicides, under Biden there were eleven in 2021 and fourteen in 2022–the highest since 2009. Rather than giving emotional support dogs to the agents, Biden needs to let them do their job securing the border instead of making them act as travel agents for the cartels by sending trafficked illegal aliens to their final destination in the U.S. after greeting them at the border.

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