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Anne Arundel-Annapolis Community Emergency Response Team (AAACERT), in partnership with the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency, recently hosted an instruction on Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aid is a national, 8-hour course that teaches people to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders.  Similar to the more familiar CPR and somatic First Aid courses, Mental Health First Aid teaches people to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect persons at risk to appropriate care.

The applicable training course taught AAACERT members, Upper Marlboro CERT members, and others the common signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and substance abuse, how to interact with a person in crisis, and how to connect that person with the help that they need.

Per the instruction, if a person is determined to be in need of help, the helper should apply the “ALGEE” action plan:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Anne Arundel County boasts a robust mental health system that serves as a model to other jurisdictions across the country.

Crisis Response System – A 24/7 Warmline [(410) 768-5522] exists and can activate Mobile Crisis Teams; provide information, support, and referrals; and serve as a link to first responders.

Crisis Intervention Teams – A police officer and a clinician are ready to respond immediately to people in crisis, making sure they get the care they need.

Safe Stations – A person needing treatment for addiction can visit any police or fire station, at any time, to seek care.  The person is able to dispose of paraphernalia without fear of legal action and get the help they need.

Robust Training – Every police officer, dispatcher, and school nurse, as well as most school principals in the county, have received this training.  The Fire Department is next on the list to get fully trained.

Those that took the course gained substantial knowledge and resources to assist them handling a mental health emergency. Multiple students left with information on how to schedule the course with other organizations and groups that they are affiliated with.

For more information on the course, or to find a course near you, go to mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

Anne Arundel-Annapolis Community Emergency Response Team (AAACERT) trains volunteers in disaster response skills and emergency preparedness. AAACERT volunteers assist others in our community following a disaster when professional responders are not immediately available to help. When activated under the Anne Arundel County Office of Emergency Management, or the City of Annapolis Office of Emergency Management, AAACERT supports emergency response agencies.