Program prepares public safety professionals for mental health situations

Anna Maria College was awarded $1,075,000 to increase the number of instructors in Mental Health First Aid across all public safety sectors. United States Senator Edward Markey included Anna Maria’s federal funding application as part of his Congressionally Directed Spending requests submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The federal funds were supported and secured by Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren.

Anna Maria College is already established as an educational and training resource for public safety professionals. These funds will enhance the College’s position as a center for Mental Health First Aid training and expand its capacity toward a goal of increasing the number of mental health first aid instructors across all public safety sectors, including law enforcement fire science, paramedic medicine, corrections and dispatch. In addition, it will provide the resources needed to integrate Mental Health First Aid Training across the college’s ​professional studies curriculum to ensure that every student will graduate with a Mental Health First Aid certification. The program ultimately will serve the entire spectrum of public safety professionals, health care providers, private sector organizations, nonprofits and businesses.

“The COVID crisis has been extraordinarily challenging for our nation’s mental health,” said Senator Edward Markey. “I am proud to help secure crucial funding for Anna Maria College’s Mental Health First Aid Training program to equip our public safety professionals with the skills and education they need to manage a mental health crisis and support people in need. With this investment we are taking a step toward healing the mental health epidemic in our country.”

“Anna Maria College was established to support communities through education and service. For us, this means addressing mental health, one of the most pressing concerns that communities face,” said Anna Maria College President Mary Lou Retelle. “This federal support provides Anna Maria College with vital resources which will expand our mental health trainings, reach more organizations and make our communities stronger and healthier. Senator Markey was so helpful throughout the submission process and we thank both Senator Markey and Senator Warren for supporting this initiative.”   

Mental Health First Aid is a nationally recognized training program from the National Council on Mental Wellbeing that teaches participants about mental health and substance use. The training increases mental health literacy and reduces stigma associated with mental health. Participants learn how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders, and explore ways to defuse mental health crises. It entails a full day, skills-focused training in both classroom and virtual environments. 

Currently, Anna Maria provides Mental Health First Aid training to its entire Residence Life staff annually, and integrates the training into its fire science, criminal justice, human services and psychology curriculum.