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House Passes Mental Health First Aid Act

September 29, 2016
Rebecca Farley @ The National Council


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.

  • Rhode Island began offering Mental Health First Aid training to its police officers in 2008. It has helped officers better identify the signs of mental illness and improved their knowledge and understanding of mental illnesses.
  • In 2013, 50 percent of police-involved shootings in Albuquerque involved people with indications of mental health issues. So far, in 2016 after New Mexico started training officers, that number is one.
  • It is also changing how law enforcement perceives and interacts with people with behavioral health issues. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections trains every staff member in Mental Health First Aid. In addition to affecting day-to-day interactions in the state’s prisons, the program has led to changes in prison policy and culture. Inmates with mental illnesses are no longer placed in solitary confinement, where in 2013, 206 of 288 documented suicide attempts took place.

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.

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6 responses to “House Passes Mental Health First Aid Act”

  1. I would love to become more education on this subject so I could educate my students about the mental health illness

  2. Rae Chappie says:

    Worked in 72 hr crisis center in Northeast Tampa.Lost funding and closed. CID Officers would bring to us instead of jail. Mostly nuisance drunk off meds, domestic abuse, schizophrenic with substance abuse. It provided safe detox and medical discharge follow up svs. Before Obama Care and Samsa provided most of funding. Now it is heroin and mental health here in Mass and way behind the times to provide crisis care for family to provide emotional support while person lives out of house for recovery.Jails full of drug/mental health crisis. Wake up America – get the mental health diagnosed then treat that along with addictive and dysfunctional person medically. Jail isn’t the answer – treatment is. Discharge planner needs programs available to refer client to. Treatment programs not funding jails.

  3. Rae Chappie says:

    Thank you for helping our first responders and our Reps Like Mr. James Micelli for their daily help intercession, to keep our kids
    from death.

  4. Kristin Doze says:

    How would a law enforcement agency apply for this grant money?

  5. I am interested in hosting a course or two in
    the camden county area

  6. Pat says:

    This is a milestone act and well past its time. It would be extremely beneficial for non-clinical professionals who work with Veterans to have this training. Let’s make it a free training for those who work with Veterans, as our training dollars are limited.

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