ALBANY, NY (NEWS 10) – As the number of people experiencing mental health situations increases, the Albany County Legislature is proposing that a training program be offered to several county departments in mental health first aid. During Monday’s meeting of the Albany County Legislature, the Mind Your Health Training Program was introduced by Speaker Andrew Joyce and Vice Speaker Wanda Willingham.
Under the legislation, certain employees who have direct and sustained interaction with the public, or those who are interested in learning more about mental health first aid, will receive training to identify a person with a mental health problem. They would also be taught the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges, how to interact with a person in crisis and how to connect that person with help.
“Teenagers, young adults and seniors are facing serious challenges caused by pandemic-related issues,” Willingham said. “Increased suicides, substance abuse and the chaotic environment of community violence, as well as the isolation of our seniors, are just some of the problems facing our citizens today. Mental health first aid training is essential to address and recognize the need of people suffering from these myriad problems. Many families are struggling to deal with people dealing with crises, and well-trained professionals are key to preventing the tragic outcomes of these mental health crises.”
“We believe that employers and organizations throughout Albany County should take every step possible to build resilience and mental, emotional well-being among their employees. But first, we have to lead by example,” said Joyce. “I am proud that Vice President Wanda Willingham has introduced this important initiative to give our workforce the training and tools needed to help everyone adapt and cope with adversity and stress in challenging times and in the wake of a devastating pandemic.” .
Nearly one in five Americans suffers from a mental health or behavioral issue that is diagnosable and almost always treatable, but only a fraction of them get the care they need, according to the National Council on Mental Wellness. By providing mental health first aid training, the Legislature aims to prevent difficult situations from escalating into tragedy.
Under Monday’s resolution, a request for proposals would be issued to procure a vendor to provide mental health first aid training, either in person or virtually. The training would be implemented within six months of each contract or within six months of the employment of any new employee in a position that must receive the training.
The training is an extension of the work the Albany County Legislature has done to address mental health in the community. In June 2021, the Legislature, in partnership with the County Executive, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Mental Health, launched the Albany County Crisis Officers Response and Diversion (ACCORD) program in the Hilltowns. ACCORD includes a team of social workers and EMTs who are trained to handle situations involving mental health and non-violent emergencies where law enforcement is not essential.
Officials are currently working with municipalities throughout Albany County to expand the ACCORD program to ensure those struggling with a mental health crisis are getting the support they need. Monday’s legislation is being referred to the Health and Personnel Committee for further consideration.