HELPING TO PROTECT THOSE WHO PROTECT US
Who We Are
Bank the Blue is a non-profit organization committed to providing support services for law enforcement officers that their local police departments are often unable to provide. Today many of our police officers are struggling with untreated post traumatic stress, depression and work-related trauma. Now more than ever, we need healthy and engaged police officers who have the respect and trust of the citizens they serve.
Many citizens – as well as businesses – want to support the police, and Bank the Blue provides this opportunity through donations, sponsorships and crowd-funded campaigns.
Bank the Blue raises funds and creates programs to provide:
- Mental health treatment and support groups outside the Chicago Police Department for officers struggling with work related trauma and mental health issues
- Programs, events and activities aimed at building mutual understanding and stronger and more respectful relationships with local communities
- Legal advice and in some cases representation for police officers
- Crowdfunded campaigns to address immediate and unexpected needs for CPD officers. For example, police officers are on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they are lacking basic safety materials and access to screening and testing for the virus.
Bank the Blue is flexible and designed to respond quickly to emergency needs. By providing individual citizens and businesses a convenient mechanism to address those needs via financial or material donations and volunteer efforts, we believe police officers can do their jobs better and morale will be higher.
Being a police officer is tough. The stress of the work is high, and tension surrounds every encounter: even a simple traffic stop can turn deadly. Constant exposure to trauma and life-threatening situations, the physical strain of working long hours, and the constant scrutiny by an often distrusting general public can easily lead to mental health issues that often go untreated. The rates for post traumatic stress disorder and depression among police officers is five times higher than that of the civilian population.
In Chicago, the city leading the nation in murders and shootings, mental health experts estimate that at least 40% of Chicago police officers suffer from post traumatic stress or depression, and many more are struggling with severe work-related anxiety and low morale. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Chicago’s police suicide rate is 60% higher than the national law enforcement average.
Resources for mental health have improved but are still very limited within the Chicago Police Department. Unfortunately, they do not begin to meet the extraordinary needs of Chicago police officers. A culture and stigma prevents many from seeking help through their departments’ services. Police officers are often hesitant to use them for fear of retribution on the job. In order for any treatment to be effective, those struggling with emotional trauma must be able to talk privately and openly without judgment or fear of retribution.
Too often, untreated mental health issues prompt officers to retreat and not be proactive in fighting crime. It can also cause poor decision-making on the job that can result in tragic consequences for citizens, the officers and their families. This can prompt lawsuits, costly settlements and verdicts that the City of Chicago must pay.
In the wake of recent and highly-publicized shootings of both citizens and police officers, trust between the police and the communities they serve has been severely compromised. These incidents are often sensationalized by the media, resulting in an unfair portrayal of law enforcement and further damaging public trust. By providing support and resources to the police who protect and serve us, Bank the Blue is setting a cycle into motion that helps to mend the fractured relationship between law enforcement officers and civilians.
Mental Health Support
There is no greater threat to the well-being of any police officer than stress: the number of police deaths by suicide now outnumbers line of duty deaths. There is currently no national standard of treatment and no end in sight to what has become a tragic national crisis.
Police officers need access to free and competent mental health treatment outside the police department. Bank the Blue is providing the following services to address these needs:
- Confidential access to experienced, trauma-trained specialists outside of the Chicago Police Department. Officers seeking treatment can contact Bank the Blue via the website or a hotline number.
- A referral list compiled of mental health experts of vetted therapists with experience and specialized training in treating workplace trauma, post traumatic stress and post traumatic depression and who have certification in Prolonged Exposure Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This therapy type is supported by research, and considered an effective treatment for trauma by a host of international organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the World Health Organization.
- Payment of co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance for police officers seeking treatment. Their insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) will cover most of the cost for the majority of therapies. Some treatments – especially those with psychiatrists as opposed to psychologists – may not be covered by insurance. Those cases will be considered on an individual basis by the Bank the Blue Board.
- Privacy for officers seeking therapy is guaranteed in accordance with HIPAA law.
- Our referral list will include some therapists who offer teletherapy and/or online therapy sessions. This may be appealing to officers who have busy schedules and for those who prefer to participate in therapy from their homes.
- Group sessions or workshops for officers trying to manage workplace stress and trauma overseen by a therapist from our referral list.
Due to the nature of their work, police officers often face more work-related legal issues than those in other professions do. These issues can range from labor and employment to disciplinary measures, lawsuits and even criminal charges. Oftentimes, they need legal guidance and help from outside the department or their union. In some cases, they need legal representation. However, seeking outside legal counsel, even just for advice much less representation, is costly and not available for most police officers.
Bank the Blue provides the following:
- A referral list compiled by legal experts of vetted lawyers who are experienced in law enforcement issues and specialize in labor and employment and criminal law. Police officers can access it via the website or hotline.
- Lawyers on the referral list will offer legal consultations to police officers.
- In certain circumstances, the Bank the Blue Board of Directors will approve to fund an officer’s legal representation based on the individual’s situation. These situations are reviewed and approved on a case by case basis.
Mutual trust between police officers and the communities they serve is a critical component in maintaining public safety and building strong communities. Chicago police cannot bring the city’s crime rate down unless they can work in partnership with citizens in our communities. Distrust, harassment and disrespect from the community takes an emotional toll on police officers. Not only does this disconnect impact the crime rate, it also hurts morale and mental health among officers.
At the core, police officers need to feel that their efforts have a positive net effect on society, and that most people will work with them to uphold the law. Bank the Blue facilitates financial support to law enforcement officers and canines for out-of-pocket expenses such as: protective equipment, bullet-proof vests, uniforms, dry cleaning, etc. through various community-based fundraising efforts and creative campaigns.
A large part of police work – commonly overlooked by the media – is community involvement. From educating kids in school about the danger of using illegal drugs through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, to providing driver safety education, to coordinating neighborhood watch associations, to speaking at business luncheons, schools and community town hall meetings, police strive hard to make their communities safe and to provide a friendly environment for the people they serve.
Bank the Blue was conceived by a group of Chicago businesses and attorneys with close ties to Chicago police and law enforcement communities. Anthony Varchetto and Jeffrey Salvetti of Blue Star Security, attorneys Dan Herbert and Kelly Krauchun of Herbert Law Firm and Karmin Daniel of Big Mouth Marketing all saw firsthand through their work the unmet needs of Chicago officers, who are responding daily to high rates of violence and distrust in the community and are now on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, they merged elements from their respective industries and insights to form Bank the Blue.
Our Board Members
Bank the Blue was created and is overseen by a diverse and distinguished Board of mental health and law enforcement experts and business and community leaders:
Dr. Stevan Hobfoll
Sgt. Jenny Fowler
Chicago Police Department
Calibre Press, Inc.
Lieutenant John L. Folino
Chicago Police Department
Patrick F. Walsh
Asset Protection Leader – Organized Retail Crime
President/Owner of HLSA, Inc.