The Mental Health First Aid Act now has a companion bill in the House of Representatives. On Thursday, Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015. This important legislation would provide funding to train Americans in Mental Health First Aid. Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate last month, also with bipartisan support.
The Mental Health First Aid Act authorizes $20 million in grants to organizations for training emergency services personnel, teachers/school administrators, primary care professionals, students, and police officers in Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that builds understanding of the signs and symptoms of mental illness and addiction and teaches participants how to respond to a person in crisis. The course uses role-play and simulation to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect persons to professional, peer and social supports as well as self-help resources. Learn more about Mental Health First Aid.
“Thanks to the bipartisan leadership in the House to fund Mental Health First Aid, we are one step closer to expanding a proven program that has already trained nearly 350,000 Americans to help the one in five in this country who have mental illnesses and addictions,” said Linda Rosenberg, National Council president and CEO. “The National Council for Mental Wellbeing commends Congresswomen Jenkins and Matsui for supporting Mental Health First Aid’s effort to advance behavioral health care in the nation.”
“Teachers, first responders, law enforcement officers, veterans, and many other public servants are often on the front lines of persons living with mental illness,” said Congresswoman Jenkins. “Until recently, these individuals had little or no training on how to adequately respond to mental health crises. Mental Health First Aid is making a real difference in our communities and this legislation will ensure that more Americans have access to mental health resources – including our veterans – and that more communities have the tools needed to help those struggling with mental illness.”
“Mental health has been ignored in our country for far too long. We must increase mental health awareness and knowledge, and decrease stigma,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “The Mental Health First Aid Act is an important step toward ensuring that our law enforcement, first responders, teachers, and other members of the community receive the training needed to respond appropriately to someone struggling with mental illness.
To date, nearly 375,000 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid in America. Since 2014, Congress has funded an annual appropriation of $15 million for Mental Health First Aid trainings around the country. The National Council strongly supports the continuation of this funding in 2016, along with a new $4 million appropriation for Veterans’ Mental Health First Aid.
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