By Chris Adams
The leader of a major mental health advocacy organization is working to advance mental health first aid legislation in Washington, one of many priorities being pushed by advocates and lawmakers of both parties.
Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, is also an advocate for “mental health courts” – a judicial path in some jurisdictions that can get people away from jail and into treatment.
Rosenberg helped usher in one of the nation’s first mental health courts, in New York. These courts are known as “problem-solving courts” and are joined by courts for drug offenses, sex offenders, veterans and human trafficking cases. The mental health courts feature a dedicated judge and specialized staff and seek to coordinate resources and treatment so people can avoid further criminal behavior.
Rosenberg, whose organization represents 2,800 organizations serving people with mental illnesses and addictions, said the courts have been successful and have been widely replicated – but more are needed.
In a National Press Foundation webinar and Q&A session with NPF fellows, Rosenberg also discussed the need for mental health first aid training. A bill being considered in Congress in 2016 would authorize grant money to train people – teachers, law enforcement and emergency personnel, veterans – in the techniques necessary to help people experiencing mental health crises.
Rosenberg reviewed other pieces of federal legislation in the works or already being implemented.