New law lets Illinois police seek mental health treatment without fear of being fired

(MGN Online photo)

A new law aims to make police officers in Illinois more comfortable coming forward to seek mental health treatment.

People seeking mental health treatment, including police officers, can have their FOID card revoked.

In the past, this caused problems because some police agencies required officers to have active FOID cards at all times.

"There's no secret that officers sometimes need some treatment for substance abuse or mental health treatment,” said Ed Wojcicki, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Now, with the help of a new law, officers can feel more comfortable getting that help.

That's because having an active Firearms Owners Identification Card, or FOID card, can no longer be a condition of continued employment.

"Once people find out -- I can go get the treatment I need, I'll be good. They're not going to take my job away, they can't threaten me with my job -- I think more people will go get the treatment they need,” Wojcicki said.

So long as doctors determine an officer is not a danger to themselves or others, that officer won't necessarily lose his or her job if they temporarily lose their FOID card.

In the past, Wojcicki said officers may have been scared to get the help they needed out of fear they'd be fired.

"Truth is, a lot of officers were afraid to go to get this kind of inpatient treatment because they would lose their FOID card, and if they didn't have a FOID card, they couldn't go back to work,” Wojcicki said.

While this law protects officers seeking mental health treatment, it doesn't bar employers from deciding if an officer is fit to serve.

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