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Missouri Senate Passes Bills On Police Mental Health, Protecting Pets, To-Go Alcohol

Creating a fund covering mental health treatment for police officers was one of several bills passed by the Missouri Senate on Thursday.

The bill would create the Critical Incident Stress Management Program within the state Department of Public Safety. The program would “provide services for peace officers to assist in coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a response to a critical incident or emotionally difficult event.”

Officers would be required to have a “mental health check-in” with program service providers “once every three to five years.” Any information disclosed in such check-ins would be privileged.

The bill also creates the “988 Public Safety Fund” within the state treasury in order to pay for the program. The fund’s name refers to a new three-digit phone number that was created for the national suicide prevention hotline.

In addition to the mental health aspect, the bill would establish a fund which pays nonprofit groups that provide crime prevention services to areas with high levels of crime. This fund would exist through August of 2024.

Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, proposed the bill, which passed with 27 senators voting yes and five voting no. All Democrats present supported the bill, as did most Republicans, including majority floor leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

Pet protection

Also Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that allows family pets to be included in protection orders.

Protection orders are often issued after a couple separates or gets divorced. They are intended to protect individuals, and often their children, from an abusive former partner. This would allow for protection of their pets as well.

Bill sponsor Sen. Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, said pets are often used as leverage, or abused as retribution, when a couple splits.

“A lot of times, if a married couple decides to split and go their separate ways, there’s a strong possibility that one could use the pet against the other,” Gannon said. “That’s just not right.”

To-go booze

Another bill, passed 28-4 by the Senate, would allow restaurants to sell alcohol to go, even after the expiration of special COVID-19 rules that first made such sales possible.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Justin Brown, R-Rolla, would also change the rules for purchasing alcohol on Sundays.

If passed, liquor laws on a Sunday would be “the same as any other day of the week,” Brown said.

While a similar bill passed the House of Representatives in February, it was not identical. Brown’s bill will therefore need the approval of the lower chamber before it can reach the governor’s desk.

Softball for a cause

Thursday’s Senate session was also abuzz with talk of the previous night’s victory in the Missouri legislative softball tournament’s championship game.

The Senate team defeated the State Highway Patrol’s team to take home the title. “If you want to see the trophy from the championship game, it’s not at the highway patrol,” joked Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan.

Other members of the Senate joked to be careful on their drives home, as the patrol would be looking for reasons to issue them tickets.

The Senate team had defeated the team from the House earlier in the tournament. Rowden had hoped to participate in the tournament but was sidelined with illness.

“I was part of the team in spirit, if not in life,” he said. Schatz remarked that it was “good to put policy disagreements aside” and be on the same team for the tournament.

Schatz said the tournament raised more than $11,000 for the Samaritan Center, a Christian food pantry in Jefferson City.