Foundation receives funding to roll out Mental Health First Aid
With seven North Texas counties having no psychiatric care beds and the number of behavioral care providers throughout the region below national and state levels, the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council (DFWHC) Foundation announced today it was chosen to receive a Community Mental Health Grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The funding will support the DFWHC Foundation’s efforts through its North Texas Community Health Collaborative to provide Mental Health First Aid training in 12 rural North Texas counties including Ellis, Erath, Grayson, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Navarro, Parker, Rockwall, Somervell and Wise counties.
The troubling numbers on North Texas behavioral healthcare were provided by a Behavioral Health Community Needs Assessment Report released in February by the Community Health Collaborative. The release of the 130-page report was the opening bell of a strategic goal of improving mental health services in the region over the next three years.
“We are honored to receive this grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission,” said Kristin Jenkins, president of the DFWHC Foundation. “As the assessment report revealed, the lack of behavioral healthcare in North Texas is troubling. The time to start recognizing and joining together to initiate change for our population is well overdue, and this is where Mental Health First Aid training will play a vital role.”
The Community Health Collaborative announced a commitment earlier this year to train 10,000 lay persons over the next three years in Mental Health First Aid across the 16 counties to also include Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties.
“The Community Mental Health Grant will allow us to move forward towards achieving that goal,” said Dr. Sushma Sharma, the director of population health research at the DFWHC Foundation and coordinator of the Community Health Collaborative. “Our key strategy will be to work with trusted local partners such as mental health authorities, churches, law enforcement agencies, first responders, school teachers and community leaders.”
Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that introduces participants to warning signs of mental illnesses and an understanding of their impact. The 8-hour course uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to offer initial help in a crisis and connect persons to the appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help care. The program also teaches the common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses including anxiety, depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
Through the program, the Community Health Collaborative will also connect county residents with the behavioral health-related resources. The proposed classes in the 12 rural counties are still being organized and are expected to begin over the next three months.
“Like CPR, Mental Health First Aid prepares participants to interact with a person in crisis and connect that person with help,” Sharma said. “These ‘First Aiders’ do not take on the role of professionals such as providing a diagnosis or counseling. Instead, the program offers them important tools to answer key questions, such as ‘what do I do?’ and ‘where can I find help?’”
The Community Mental Health Grant Program was established by House Bill 13, 85th Legislature, Regular Session, 2017, and authored by Representative Four Price. Fifteen states have made Mental Health First Aid a priority, appropriating state funds including the Texas Health and Human Services Commission awarding $15 million in grant funds to 31 governmental entities and nonprofit organizations across the state.
For information on Mental Health First Aid training in North Texas, please go to www.healthyntexas.org. For recruitment and training schedules, please contact the program team at [email protected]. You can also contact Dr. Sharma at [email protected].