Just days after First Lady Michelle Obama called on the nation to “flip the script” on mental health, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015. This legislation would provide funding to train Americans in Mental Health First Aid. The bill was introduced by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). They were joined by cosponsors Michael Bennet (D-CO), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dean Heller (R-NV), Robert Portman (R-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
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.
“Senators Ayotte and Blumenthal are true champions for the 1 in 5 Americans who live with mental illness. The reintroduction of the Mental Health First Aid Act represents an important step in supporting the mental health of all Americans,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council. “Mental Health First Aid can better allow each of us to recognize symptoms of distress and know how to connect people with the help they need and deserve. Senators Ayotte and Blumenthal are paving the way to ensure that our nation is better equipped to adequately address mental illness.”
To date, nearly 350,000 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.
The National Council applauds the bipartisan sponsors for their leadership and looks forward to working with them to enact this important legislation.