Innovative Program Offers Proven Techniques to Recognize and Respond to Mental Illness and Addiction
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Council for Behavioral Health today joined Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Mark Begich (AK) and Representatives Lynn Jenkins (KS) and Ron Barber (AZ) for two congressional staff briefings on Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety Officers. The congressional hosts are also the lead co-sponsors of the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 (S. 153/H.R. 274) and were joined by leaders from law enforcement, corrections and academic organizations, in addition to mental health and addiction treatment leaders.
Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety is an eight-hour course specially designed for police officers, first responders, corrections officers and other public safety professionals, helping them better understand mental illnesses and addictions and providing them with effective response options to deescalate incidents without compromising safety. Approximately 10,000 public safety professionals have taken the original Mental Health First Aid course.
“The National Council is proud to stand with our congressional champions in support of Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety Officers,” said National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg. “This innovative program offers law enforcement personnel the language and tools they need to effectively respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis. Mental Health First Aid can help save lives and make our communities stronger, and we join together to help ensure more public safety officers can receive this valuable training.”
The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 180,000 individuals to connect with youth and adults in need of mental health and addictions care in their communities. Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety Officers builds on that successful effort.
“Mental Health First Aid training teaches those on the front lines how to help individuals in crisis and direct them to proper treatment in the community,” said Senator Ayotte. “I’ve worked across party lines in the Senate to introduce legislation to boost Mental Health First Aid, and these briefings highlight the importance of this training to those who work in schools, hospitals, and law enforcement, as well as first responders, members of veterans service organizations, and other community leaders.”
“Sadly, too many Alaskans continue to lack adequate access to mental health services and sometimes having someone who knows the signs of a mental health crisis, such as a teacher or a police officer, can make a lifesaving difference,” said Senator Begich. “Politics has no place when it comes to providing support for those who are experiencing a mental health crisis and we must do more to support our communities. That is why I was proud to sponsor the bipartisan Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 with Senator Ayotte. Our bill would provide funding for training programs to help the public identify and understand the symptoms so that individuals can get the help they need.”
Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety Officers builds on the original Mental Health First Aid program, a proven training program for educators, community leaders, veterans and military families and is listed on the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety Officers incorporates the unique experiences of law enforcement personnel and first responders.
“The Mental Health First Aid Public Safety Program is about giving our law enforcement the tools they need to improve their response to people experiencing mental health crises” said Representative Barber. “Our criminal justice system is not an alternative to a strong mental health system, but too often law enforcement officers are the frontline response to a mental health crisis.”
“Today’s briefing was about raising mental health awareness and sharing with my colleagues the good work being done to create safer and healthier communities through Mental Health First Aid training programs” said Representative Jenkins. “I am extremely grateful David Johnson with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence, Kansas could serve on the panel and share his insights on the difference Mental Health First Aid training can make for our law enforcement communities. We must continue to work to ensure all communities have the tools and knowledge needed to keep families safe and ensure that everyone has better access to mental health resources.”
Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety trainings are currently scheduled around the country. To locate trainings in your area, visit our “Find a Course” page. Mental Health First Aid USA is managed, operated and disseminated by the National Council, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
For more information, please visit our Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety Officers page. For video highlights from a Mental Health First Aid training, visit this YouTube page.
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The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and substance use treatment organizations. Together with our 2,200 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than 8 million adults and children living with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained 180,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities. Learn more at www.TheNationalCouncil.org.
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