ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As the number of people experiencing mental health situations increases, the Albany County Legislature is proposing a training program be provided to several County departments for mental health first aid. During the Albany County Legislature’s meeting on Monday, the Mind Your Health Training Program was introduced by Chairman Andrew Joyce and Deputy Chairwoman Wanda Willingham.

According to the legislation, certain employees who have direct and consistent interaction with the public, or those interested in learning more about mental health first aid, would receive training to identify a person with a mental health issue. 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 senior citizens are facing serious challenges brought on by pandemic-related issues,” said Willingham. “The increase in suicide, substance abuse, and the chaotic environment of community violence, as well as the isolation of our senior citizens, are just some of the issues that face our citizens today. Mental health first aid training is critical to address and recognize the need of people who are suffering from these myriad issues. Many families are struggling to handle people dealing with crises and well-trained professionals are key to preventing tragic outcomes of these mental health crises.”

“We believe employers and organizations across Albany County should take every step possible to build resilience and mental, emotional well-being among their employees. But first, we must lead by example,” Joyce said. “I’m proud that Deputy Chairwoman Wanda Willingham has introduced this important initiative to give our workforce the training and tools necessary to help everyone adapt and cope with adversity and stress through challenging times and in the wake of a devastating pandemic.”

Nearly one in five Americans suffer from a mental or behavioral health issue that is diagnosable and almost always treatable, but only a fraction receives the necessary care, according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. By offering mental health first aid training, the Legislature aims to prevent difficult situations from escalating into tragedies.

According to Monday’s resolution, a request for proposals would be issued to obtain a vendor that would provide the mental health first aid training either in-person or virtually. The training would be implemented within six months of any contract or within six months of any new employee’s hire to a position that should receive the training.

The training is an extension of the work the Albany County Legislature has been 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 Crisis Officials Responding and Diverting (ACCORD) program in the Hilltowns. ACCORD involves a team consisting of social workers and EMTs who have been trained to handle situations involving mental health and nonviolent emergency cases where law enforcement is not essential.

Officials are currently working with municipalities throughout Albany County on an expansion of the ACCORD program, to ensure that those who are struggling with a mental health crisis are receiving the support they need. Monday’s legislation is being referred to the Health and Personnel Committees for further review.