Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced the expansion of the partnership between the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living and Hartford Healthcare's Behavioral Health Network to include Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for educators and school personnel.
"Making mental health training more easily accessible will prepare primary care professionals, families, school personnel and educators to identify and understand students in crisis, improve early intervention when students are displaying disturbing or threatening behavior in schools and ensure these young people receive the treatment they require," said Governor Malloy. "As we implement this training program, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission continues to meet to address removing the stigma from seeking mental health treatment and improving access to services for children and their families."
As a part of the gun violence prevention legislation that the Governor signed into law last month, DMHAS -- in consultation with state Department of Education -- will administer a MHFA training program that teaches people to recognize the signs of mental disorders in children and young adults and connect them with services. The reforms also allow boards of education to require teachers and other school employees to participate in MHFA training. MHFA presents an overview of mental illness and substance use disorders, introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and outlines common treatments.
"DMHAS and Hartford Hospital's Institute of Living have always provided services that work in partnership with each other," said DMHAS Commissioner Pat Rehmer. "We have a long standing history together and now continue our partnership with Mental Health First Aid. It is particularly timely that we can announce these new efforts since May is Mental Health Awareness Month."
"We are pleased that DMHAS and our Hartford partners have come together to enable the provision of these important services," said State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. "We look forward to working in concert with school districts and all involved to ensure successful implementation."
DMHAS, Hartford Hospital and the Hartford Healthcare Behavioral Health Network will fund the 5-day Instructor Training Program, providing certification to 30 individuals so that they can teach Mental Health First Aid in communities. Once trained, the new instructors will be deployed across the state to train interested parties who have regular public contact such as school personnel, social service providers, and retail workers.
"We have grown with DMHAS in the transition from a medical to a recovery model" said Annetta Caplinger, Director of Clinical Operations at the Institute of Living. "This joint grassroots approach to outreach and prevention in the community is a natural progression of our role as a partner in recovery supports".
In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Governor Malloy created SHAC to review current policy and make specific recommendations in the areas of public safety, with particular attention paid to school safety, gun violence prevention and mental health. After releasing its interim report in March, SHAC has held numerous meetings to address improving the delivery of mental health services in Connecticut.
Mental Health First Aid "Train the Trainers" is May 20 -24, 2013 at the Institute of Living, Staunton Williams Auditorium in Hartford, at no cost to participants. Media interested in observing one of the sessions should contact DMHAS Public Relations Manager Mary Kate Mason.