On Monday, the House chamber unanimously approved the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s version of H.R. 1877, the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015. This legislation authorizes grants for mental health and substance use awareness training to law enforcement, first responders, teachers, and other individuals that work with youth. The National Council issued the following statement on this important action:
The National Council for Behavioral Health appreciates Congresswomen Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui’s (D-CA) leadership on the Mental Health First Aid Act (H.R. 1877) and thanks Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for bringing it to the floor.
Police have become the de facto first responders to mental health crises. The eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training provides officers with tools to help de-escalate incidents and avoid tragic outcomes. Officers learn how to assess a situation, intervene properly and help someone find appropriate care. The House is voting on the bipartisan legislation today, which will award grants to train individuals, including police officers, to accomplish safe de-escalation of crisis situations, recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and encourage timely referral to mental health services.
Mental Health First Aid has already made a difference in police departments around the country.
If Congress passes the Mental Health First Aid Act, more first responders and law enforcement officials will receive this valuable training. Mental Health First Aid is a powerful tool proven to help law enforcement avert tragedy. The National Council for Behavioral Health looks forward to its passage.