Bill would create first-aid training program for mental-health and substance-use crises; hope is to make it as common as CPR

Rep. Moser explains mental-health first aid.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A bill to create a training program for mental-health first aid has been pre-filed by state Rep. Kim Moser, a Kenton County Republican who chairs the House Health and Family Services Committee.

If passed, the program would train people in how to best address the needs of someone experiencing a mental-health or substance-use crisis.

“The goal of this legislation is to make this program widely accessible across the state to those who work with at-risk populations,” Moser said at a Dec. 9 news conference about the bill. “I would like to see mental-health first aid become as commonplace as CPR training” for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Moser noted that mental health is the underlying cause of many issues in society, such as substance-use disorders, suicide and violence, but little has been done to help those who might be dealing with such issues in a crisis.

“This certification does not replace a licensed counselor, but it builds mental-health and substance-misuse literacy so that the folks who get this training will be able to help the public in identifying, understanding and responding to a mental-health issue or crisis,” Moser said.

According to the 2019 America’s Health Rankings, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Kentucky and the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34. The U.S. suicide rate for veterans is 17 per day, according to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention and Annual Report.

State Behavioral Health Commissioner Wendy Morris said at the news conference that one in five Americans will have a diagnosable mental-health condition, fewer than half of those will get treatment, and if they do get treatment, it typically 11 years after the onset of symptoms.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, applauded Moser’s legislation, which will be known as Bill Request 313 until the legislative session begins Jan. 7. He said the training would help decrease the stigma around mental illness and substance use.

“We fear what we don’t understand and what we can’t fix,” Chandler said. “But if we knew more, we could do more. This training increases understanding and awareness and gives us tools to help.”

The training would be geared toward anyone, but individuals such as first responders, faith leaders, social workers, and educators are likely to benefit the most from it, says a news release about the bill.

The training would be administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and would be funded through state and federal appropriations, grants and private donations.

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