NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — New physical and mental health services are going to be made available for Norfolk police officers.

On Tuesday night, Norfolk City Council voted to enter into an agreement with The Renova Center and Responder Health by Armor Up in order to provide officers daily personal fitness training, mental reframing and a 24/7 crisis intervention hotline, among other services.

The contracts for one year will cost an estimated $753,000, according to City Attorney Bernard Phishko and the money will come from money being saved from all the vacant police officer positions.

As of this month, the department has more than 260 vacancies, more than 33% of the department.

Interim Police Chief Mike Goldsmith hopes the new services will help keep that number from getting worse.

“The idea behind this is letting our officers avail themselves of something that will help destress them, help them contribute to their wellness throughout their career. We will believe this is a tremendous piece to our retention strategy to keep our officers in place,” Goldsmith said.

Documents in City Council’s packet confirm that the confidential crisis line will allow police officers to speak freely with a retired or former police officer who is trained not only to identify the severity of the nature of a call, but also to connect the first responder with the help they need immediately. They will also be able to assist with:

  • Referrals to fully vetted acute inpatient treatment centers and outpatient counselors as needed by the officer
  • Peer to Peer support allowing police officers to speak with a trained peer who understands the unique stresses, both professional and personal of being a police officer
  • Training for wellness and resiliency for both the officer and their families

Goldsmith said if the program is successful, the plan to expand it to the city’s other public safety employees.