U.S. Rep. Ron Barber tomorrow will join two Arizona legislators and a top official in the local mental health care community to celebrate state funding for Mental Health First Aid training and expansion of Arizona's Medicaid program.
"I am pleased that the Arizona Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation that includes Mental Health First Aid," Barber said. "I introduced similar legislation in Congress that was approved by the Senate and I continue to fight for it, alongside bipartisan cosponsors, so we can ensure this program can help people nationwide.
"This legislation will provide training to help first responders, educators, students, parents and the general public identify and respond to signs of mental illness," Barber added. "This is something that people on both sides of the aisle can and should support to reduce stigma and improve mental health awareness."
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden called Barber a "champion of mental health first aid" at the conclusion of the National Conference on Mental Health at the White House.
A bipartisan coalition in the Arizona Legislature this month approved broadening eligibility in the state's health-insurance program for the poor under the federal health-care overhaul. As part of that expansion, the Legislature approved $250,000 to expand Mental Health First Aid Training across the state.
Joining Barber at tomorrow's event will be two legislators who played key roles in those issues: Tucson state Reps. Victoria Steele, a Democrat, and Ethan Orr, a Republican. Also speaking tomorrow will be Neal Cash, president and CEO of the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona.
"Together, these efforts mean that more people in our community will be prepared to help family members, friends or neighbors who may have a mental illness -- and that professional help will be available to more of them," said Steele. "When mental-health issues are identified and addressed early, treatment has a much better chance of success."
"Our community's response to this training has been incredible," said Orr. "More than 1,500 people from all walks of life have been trained just in the Tucson area and they're an important resource. This is an effective way to address public safety."
The Medicaid restoration will provide ongoing care for many individuals who lost coverage in recent years.
"Ongoing treatment is critically important for a healthier and safer community," said Cash. "We all know the tragic consequences that can result when mental illness is unidentified and untreated. With ongoing treatment, our members can be fully engaged citizens -- working, parenting, going to school."
CPSA oversees the public behavioral health-care system in Pima County and was the first organization in the state to offer Mental Health First Aid trainings. CPSA continues to offer trainings free to the community. For details, go here.
Media is welcome to attend tomorrow's event.