WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) today introduced the bipartisan Expanding Access to Mental Health Training Act to reauthorize and improve the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Mental Health Awareness Training (MHAT) Grants program.
The program, which would expire this year without Congressional action, provides grant funding to states, localities, Tribes, and other nonprofits to train individuals including teachers, first responders, law enforcement officials, and veterans to recognize and respond to youth mental and behavioral health disorders. The MHAT program helps prevent mental and behavioral issues from escalating by connecting those in need to evidence and community-based mental health services.
“Teachers and first responders are frequently in situations where children are experiencing mental health crises,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill improves access to training for teachers and first responders so they can connect kids to appropriate mental health services.”
“As we’ve seen in communities all across Nevada and our country, the pandemic has only exacerbated the existing mental health crisis,” said Senator Rosen. “It is often our teachers and first responders who first come into contact with youth facing a mental health crisis, and that is why we must ensure they have the necessary training and resources to respond and support those in need. This program is critical and we must work to reauthorize and enhance it.”
“The MHAT Grant has allowed us to offer free workshops and teach parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis,” said Kim Young, CEO of The Children’s Cabinet. “The Children’s Cabinet supports, and urges, the reauthorization of the Mental Health Awareness Training Grants program as it provides critical training opportunities for people to be able to understand suicide and depression warning signs and make appropriate referrals. Investments must be made in prevention and early intervention, MHAT Grants have the ability to educate, create awareness and save lives.”
“Nye Communities Coalition appreciates Senators Rosen and Cassidy’s efforts and support for the Mental Health Awareness Training Grant,” said Stacy Smith, Nye Communities Coalition. “Nye Communities Coalition was a MHAT grantee when the pandemic started and this grant allowed us to ease the stress COVID put upon our community. This bill will provide the resources that communities need to help our children, families, adults, and seniors manage their emotional and mental health.”
“CSN’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is a critical part of our students’ support network and emotional safety net,” said Daniel Alvarado, Director of the Disability Resource Center, and CAPS, College of Southern Nevada. “CAPS works closely with students, faculty, and staff to put systems, programs, and policies in place to create a culture of caring that protects students’ mental health and builds life skills, thus making it more likely for students to seek help and connect with CAPS promptly. Receiving funds to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training across the campus community has been impactful in changing behaviors—from a culture of silence to a culture of awareness. The continual support of funds will allow us to create a culture of caring grounded in more profound understanding and reduced shame and secrecy by providing ongoing MHFA training.”
“We were able to provide training across our community to those without a background in mental health to not only recognize the early warning signs and symptoms of what may be a mental health concern, but to effectively provide support and resources for those who may need them. This is critical—everyday people noticing and knowing what to do to help. Hopefully, this has put our community in a position of proactivity about mental health,” said Jill Waltemate, owner and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Psychological Resources.