Chuck Ingoglia, Senior Vice President for Public Policy at the National Council for Behavioral Health, discussed the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 in a Care For Your Mind article published this week.
In January, legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to fund public education programs that train emergency services personnel, police officers, teachers/school administrators, primary care professionals, and students to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The legislation, referred to as The Mental Health First Aid Act, seeks $20 million in grant funding for Mental Health First Aid educational programming to:
- Highlight available mental health resources in local communities, including Community Mental Health Centers, emergency psychiatric facilities, hospital emergency rooms, and other programs offering psychiatric crisis beds;
- Teach the warning signs and risk factors for schizophrenia, major clinical depression, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, trauma, and other common mental disorders;
- Teach crisis de-escalation techniques; and
- Provide trainees with a five-step action plan to help individuals in psychiatric crisis connect to professional mental health care.
Senator sponsor Mark Begich (D-AK) underscored the importance of the proposed legislation, saying that the bill “makes smart investments to increase awareness and resources for mental health services in Alaska and across the country. I look forward to seeing it move forward in the Senate.” He said, ”The broad bipartisan support for this bill shows that politics have no place when it comes to keeping our families and communities safe and providing adequate support for those who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.”