ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As the number of people experiencing mental health issues increases, the Albany County Legislature is proposing a training program to be provided to several county mental health first responders. During Monday’s meeting of the Albany County Legislature, the Take Care of Your Health training program was introduced by Speaker Andrew Joyce and Vice Speaker Wanda Willingham.
Under the legislation, some officers who have direct and consistent 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 will 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 senior citizens face serious challenges posed by pandemic-related issues,” Willingham said. “The increase in suicide, substance abuse and a chaotic environment of community violence, as well as the isolation of our senior citizens, are just some of the issues facing our citizens today. Mental health first aid training is critical to addressing and recognizing the needs of people who suffer from these myriad issues. Many families struggle to cope with individuals facing crises, and well-trained professionals are key to preventing tragic outcomes from these mental health crises.
“We believe that employers and organizations in Albany County should take every step possible to build resilience and mental and emotional well-being among their employees.” But first we have to set an example,” Joyce said. “I am proud that Vice President Wanda Willingham introduced this important initiative to provide our workforce with the training and tools needed to help everyone adapt and cope with hardship and stress during challenging times and in the result of a devastating pandemic.”
Nearly one in five Americans suffer from a mental or behavioral health problem that is diagnosed and almost always treatable, but only a small fraction receive the care they need, according to the National Council on Mental Well-being. By offering mental health first aid training, the legislature aims to prevent difficult situations from escalating into tragedies.
Under Monday’s resolution, a request for proposals will be issued to find a provider to provide mental health first aid training in person or virtually. The training will take place within six months of each contract or within six months of the hiring of any new employee in a position to receive the training.
The training is an extension of the work the Albany County Legislature is doing 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 Officer Crisis Response and Referral (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 receive the support they need. Monday’s legislation goes to the health and staff commissions for further review.