Pilot program will help educators handle mental health issues
It began with Legislator Siela Bynoe seeing a void in how community organizations, school districts and law enforcement were prepared to effectively deal with mental health issues. Although CPR and NARCAN trainings are available to county residents, there are no specialized trainings addressing the growing mental health problem. Bynoe worked with former Legislator Frances Becker to secure the resources to host the Mental Health First Aid trainings.
“Just like other emergency intervention training programs, it concentrates on identifying the warning signs of mental health disorders and educates the participants on how to take the appropriate steps to effectively deal with the person in need,” said Bynoe. “Moreover, the trainings are well focused, effective and accredited by a national leader in behavioral sciences. My goal was to address mental health issues by offering trainings for faith-based, youth service and community organizers. In addition, I envisioned how beneficial it would be to train our law enforcement personnel and educators.”
After hosting a series of Mental Health First Aid courses during the late fall and winter of 2015, Bynoe began working with the county’s Health and Human Services Commissioner Lisa Murphy and Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter to provide training to current and future police recruits, 911 operators and the Critical Response Team. Krumpter enthusiastically incorporated the training into the current recruitment curriculum.
“Our police officers and 911 operators are confronted with tough and emotionally charged interactions on a daily basis,” said Bynoe. “That’s why we are offering our law enforcement personnel an extra set of tools that helps them identify mental health related issues and possibly consider taking an individual to a hospital or treatment center instead of jail.”
Police officers are not the only community leaders who will benefit from such training. A pilot program in the Westbury school district will begin to train educators and administrative staff in both Nassau communities. School faculty can now intercede when symptoms are just beginning to present themselves, reducing the risk to themselves, other students and school employees. Nassau County educators can be partners in identifying and addressing mental illness. In both cases, the school districts will have faculty and administrators participate in the in-service training on a day set aside for professional development.
“Many of our young people are self-medicating, exhibiting disruptive behaviors or suffering in silence. I’m really encouraged that both Nassau County and the local school districts are committed to partner in a meaningful way and ensure that our are educators are equipped to help,” Bynoe said.
Mental Health First Aid is a course designed to educate individuals and provide them with the appropriate skills to ensure a proactive approach to identifying and managing mental health issues. Originally adapted and coordinated by the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Maryland Department of Health and the Missouri Department of Mental Health in 2008, Mental Health First Aid is a program that introduces communities to common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.