We are here to help! If you would like to set up a personal consultation with one of our experts, please email our Director of Public Education, Michael Carrone: MichaelC@thenationalcouncil.org.
- What is the problem we are facing? Why do public safety officers need to be trained in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Police have become the nation’s de facto first responders to mental health crises. Approximately one in 10 police calls involve a person with mental illness, and people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement. When it comes to corrections, the institutions in America with the largest psychiatric populations are not hospitals, but facilities like Rikers Island, NW, The LA County Jail and The Cook County Jail in Chicago.
- What is Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety provides your officers with the basic knowledge about the signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance use disorders, the skills to reaching out and provide comfort to someone who is unwell, and tactics to de-escalate someone in crisis. The program also focuses on early intervention, diversion and referral to clinical support. Finally, woven throughout the course is a workplace wellness focus so officers can take care of each other and their own families.
- How is Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety making a difference?
- Officers trained in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety have increased mental health literacy. The program changes how law enforcement perceives and interacts with people with behavioral health issues. “It is no longer acceptable to only have reactive plans to crisis situations,’ said Ret. Sergeant Jim Kirk of the Tucson, Arizona, police department. “Mental Health First Aid … helps officers see that although a crime may have been perpetrated, the motivation behind the act may be due to a behavioral issue; therefore, we are responsible to seek long term solutions for all involved.”
Because of the extraordinary demands of the job, Public Safety Staff have a higher level of risk for mental illness and substance use disorders. Mental Health First Aid provides the peer support to help.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have been critical drivers of that movement.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has trained every staff member – more than 15,000 people.
- 100% of new recruits in Philadelphia take MHFA in the Academy and it is a pre-requisite to enter their CIT program.
- A new law in Rhode Island makes it mandatory for all law enforcement officers to receive training in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety.
- And officers from Albuquerque to New York City have been trained in the 8-hour course, which gives them the tools to identify when someone is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.
“This is training that’s useful to everyone,” Melissa Urbanick from Pennsylvania said. “It applies to anyone who’s going to have inmate contact and may experience some sort of crisis. They can use the things they learned in Mental Health First Aid to de-escalate that crisis.”
- What will I learn in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- The eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training gives officers – whether riding in a squad cars or operating a dispatch center – tools to help deescalate incidents and avoid tragic outcomes. Officers learn how to assess a situation, intervene properly and help someone find appropriate care.
The course outline includes topics like these:
- What is Mental Health First Aid? Why Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Mental Health Problems in the United States
- Why Discuss Officer Wellness?
- Understanding Depression and Anxiety
- Mental Health First Aid Action Plan for Depression (ALGEE)
- Suicidal Behavior
- Depressive Symptoms
- Nonsuicidal Self-Injury
- Mental Health First Aid Action Plan (ALGEE) for Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Anxiety Symptoms
- Cumulative Stress
- Post Traumatic Stress
- Understanding Disorders in which Psychosis May Occur
- Mental Health First Aid Action Plan
- Acute Psychosis
- Aggressive Behavior
- Psychotic Symptoms
- Understanding Substance Use Disorders
- Mental Health First Aid Action Plan
- Using your training — Scenario Work and Resources
- Officer wellness – taking care of the First Aider
All of these topics are developed through interactive exercises, scenario work and response to film clips.
- What is the difference between CIT and Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Mental Health First Aid and Crisis Intervention Training are complementary, and both a part of the IACP pledge. To learn more about the way they work together, read this.
- Who is Already Using Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Public safety agencies around the nation are adopting and implementing Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety. For example:
- The Philadelphia Police Department requires all recruits to take the course, and it is a pre-requisite to entering the CIT program later on.
- The state of Rhode Island has been training police in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety as an elective for years, and just last month the State Legislature made the course a requirement for all sworn officers statewide.
- The New York Police Department has a number of Instructors on staff throughout New York City as part of the Thrive NYC program, and plans to expand training as an elective force-wide.
- Through a local grant, the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department has trained 100% of their officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety already.
- Although already a 100% CIT Department, the Albuquerque Police Department uses Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety as a regular CIT refresher.
- New Jersey State Police has trained hundreds of officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety.
- The New Mexico State Police has four Instructors on staff and has added Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety as an elective for current and future officers.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has trained 100% of its staff—more than 16,000 people. The department accomplished this in one year by training an Instructor at each of their 23 facilities and scheduling regular classes every few months.
- Even in a sparsely populated state like Wyoming, the Department of Corrections has embarked on a program to train all staff in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety at all of their facilities statewide. Instead of training Instructors at each facility, they have a small team of Instructors that travel throughout the state.
- How do we convince other stakeholders like the mayor, city council, city manager, county commissioners to support our training all of our officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Although the concept of equipping officers and staff with additional tools to respond to individuals experiencing mental illness often sells itself, your best approach in getting support is to do some analysis on what it costs your department to respond to this population. If you could cut down on these repeat calls, help your constituents get help, and avoid potentially tragic outcomes, what would that be worth to leadership? We can also connect you with those in similar departments who have been successful and can help guide you.
- How can we get funding to implement training our officers in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Most departments fund their Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety classes from their own training budgets, but there are other sources of funding available. Some have tapped local private foundations like the Aetna Foundation, or utilized federal funds like those offered through SAMHSA’s Project Aware. Download our funding template to get started or give us a call at 202-684-7457 ext. 243.
- How do I find Instructors to train my department in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety?
- Utilize existing local Instructors. One way to train your staff is to connect with local Instructors that are already certified and working in your community. Call 1-202-684-7457 x 118 to connect with an Instructor in your area.
- Train your own Instructors. Certify your own staff to teach the course internally. You can send staff members to a three-day Instructor certification course where they learn to teach the curriculum. Email MHFAApplications@TheNationalCouncil.org to find out about upcoming Public Safety Instructor certification courses.
If you have 10 or more Instructor candidates, we will be glad to come to you and do a customized training. By contracting with us to set up an Instructor certification course at your location, we can certify up to 30 individuals – saving you money and time. Email MHFAHostSites@TheNationalCouncil.org to bring an Instructor certification course to you.