A mental health program that originated in North Texas is expanding statewide in an effort to save the lives of law enforcement officers.

The Blue Chip Program, which can be accessed anonymously, provides no-cost mental health resources to officers. Participants can access counseling and psychologist office visits “without having to go through an employee assistance program, officer wellness programs at the police department, a peer network, or insurance referrals.” The program makes it easier for officers who may be reluctant to seek help to “obtain assistance on their own terms,” the program website explains.

The program is an extension of the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network (TLEPN), a statewide program in which active peace officers volunteer to serve as mentors to fellow officers to help them manage the stressors of life, combat job burnout, and address trauma and other factors that may lead to suicide and self-harm. The volunteer mentors receive training through the Caruth Police Institute at the University of North Texas in partnership with The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.

Any officer can access services through the Blue Chip Program by picking up a literal “blue chip” available at their law enforcement department. The chips are located in locker rooms, washrooms, briefing rooms, and other areas where they can be accessed discreetly. The chip has a scan code on the back, which gives the officer a list of providers participating in the program and contact information.

“Officers can take more than one chip if multiple visits are anticipated, but are encouraged to only take the number of chips necessary. Each chip covers the cost associated of one visit, with the Texas Blue Chip Program reimbursing the provider directly. The clinician redeems the chip and invoices TLEPN,” the website explains.

The statewide Blue Chip Program was inspired by the success of a similar program pioneered at the Arlington Police Department under the leadership of Chief Will Johnson.

Johnson, who chairs the Police Professional Standards, Ethics, and Images Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, worked with The Meadows Institute to help develop the program statewide.

The mission of the TLEPN is to “eliminate police suicide in the state of Texas because even one is too many,” the program website states. In 2022, Texas recorded the highest number of law enforcement officer suicides in the nation, with 16 lives lost. It is hoped that the Blue Chip Program will help accomplish TLEPN’s mission.