WCSO adds mental health counselor to staff

Washoe County Sheriff's Office
Washoe County Sheriff's Office(KOLO)
Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 10:36 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - When tragedies like the Boulder, Colorado supermarket shooting happen, law enforcement needs somewhere to turn to help cope.

“At the end of the day, all we want is a mentally and emotionally well deputy sheriff.”

Darin Balaam, Washoe County Sheriff

Washoe County deputies will now be able to receive the mental health support they help. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) counselor position was officially approved by the County Board of Commissioners on Monday, March 23, 2021.

“The biggest goal here is to say we’re here for you, and to break that stigma that it’s okay,” Sheriff Darin Balaam said.

This service comes during a critical time in our country, as we enter a year of living with COVID-19 and witness yet another deadly mass shooting.

Sheriff Balaam added, “When one of these incidents occurs, it’s just a reminder that hey, it maybe didn’t occur in our region but it occurred somewhere in our nation and it can occur here. So it just reinforces that anxiety, that fear.”

The agency’s new counselor will be available 24/7 for staff to lean on and to unpack heavy situations they’re faced with on the job every single day.

“They’re already looking forward to and setting up plans to have their shift, go in individually, and just talk,” Sheriff Balaam said.

Sheriff Balaam believes having access to this support will positively impact his deputies and our community.

Sheriff Balaam added, “Studies show that if you have a more mentally and emotionally well officer, your use of forces is going to go down, your citizen complaints are going to go down, so we will be watching that.”

The mental health counselor’s first day will be April 1. They will have an office at the Sheriff’s Office, an off-site location, and go on ride-a-longs to build up a rapport with deputies.

WCSO hopes to add a second practitioner for its staff, as well as annual mental wellness checks in the future.

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