Mental health first-aid training bill advances to Senate

Kentucky would develop a statewide Mental Health First Aid Training Program or similar program under legislation that advanced to the Senate today after passing the House 93-0.

House Bill 153 sponsor and House Health and Family Services Committee Chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said the bill would allow Kentuckians to “diffuse a crisis early” by offering them evidence-based mental health training to use when they encounter someone in crisis.

“The Mental Health First Aid Act will put this evidence-based training program in the hands of educators, law enforcement, first responders, military personnel, our faith leaders—really anyone who interacts with the general public and anyone at risk,” said Moser.

Mental health first aid training programs are already in pockets of the state, she said. HB 153 would take the training statewide as Kentucky battles what Moser called “significant mental health issues” including substance use disorder and suicide.

Speaking in support of HB 153 was bill cosponsor Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville. The Jefferson County educator said her experience with a similar program through Jefferson County Public Schools made a lasting impression on her.

“It was a very powerful thing for me to do,” she told her colleagues in the House. “It gave me a lot of thoughts to bring back into the classroom because I know there are so many children with mental health issues we deal with.”

Training costs associated with the statewide program would be covered by grants paid for with public and private appropriations drawn from a training fund administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  Moser said all moneys in the fund would be reserved for the program.

“Any money in this trust fund would be used specifically for this training program or suicide prevention programs,” she told the House.