October 22, 2020

Media Contact:

Deidre McCabe, Director, Office of Communications, 410-767-3536

Charles Gischlar, Deputy Director, Office of Communications, 410-767-6491


Maryland Department of Health launches virtual mental health first aid training for first responders


Baltimore, MD – The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) today announced the launch of a new virtual form of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Maryland, which will be offered to firefighters, emergency medical technicians and police, in partnership with the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System (MIEMSS).


MHFA Maryland has trained over 40,000 individuals and professionals in identifying the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and substance use disorders so they can respond effectively to individuals in crisis. Training sessions begin today.


“In addition to skilled medical training, our emergency personnel should also be armed with the knowledge to recognize when someone may be experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “We encourage all our first responders to take part in this critical training, so they may not only help connect those in need to appropriate care, but also help reduce the stress they may encounter while responding to a crisis.”


Over the next three years, MIEMSS will coordinate statewide training for hundreds of first responders, teaching the skills necessary to provide initial support to those in crisis. Participants receive national certification upon successful completion of the 6.5 hour training program, which includes both self-paced learning and live virtual training with a certified instructor. The shift from in-person to virtual training comes as the result of precautions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland.


“Mental Health First Aid Maryland provides first responders with the tools they need to take better care of themselves and respond more effectively to individuals in the communities they serve who may be experiencing a mental health crisis,” said MDH Behavioral Health Administration Deputy Secretary Dr. Aliya Jones. “The program has proven to be a vital resource in improving interactions and outcomes between citizens with mental illness and our first responders.”


According to MHFA USA, first aid trainees who complete the program report:


●  Increased knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of substance use disorder and mental health challenges

●  Increased confidence in their ability and likelihood to help an individual in distress

●  Increased comfort in their ability to identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with substance use disorder and mental illness

●  Improved mental wellness for themselves


“This training will focus on the unique experiences and needs of emergency services personnel and is an invaluable resource,” said MIEMSS Executive Director Dr. Ted Delbridge. “It makes a difference in their lives, their coworkers’ and families’ lives, and in the lives of the people who live in the communities they serve.”


Maryland was the first state to implement mental health first aid training in 2008, after adapting it from Mental Health First Aid Australia. In 2019, the program found new life though Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford’s Commission to Study Mental and Behavioral Health in Maryland, in coordination with the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center. Today, the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) operates the program in Maryland, while the National Council for Behavioral Health operates the program in 49 other states.


“This partnership is a unique opportunity to provide ongoing assistance to Maryland’s network of first responders, ensuring they have the resources they need to effectively use their new skills,” said MHAMD Chief Executive Officer Linda Raines. “We look forward to continuing to support our heroes as they respond to behavioral health crises on the front lines.”


For more information about Mental Health First Aid Maryland, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaidmaryland.org.


If interested in attending an upcoming course, please contact MIEMSS at cism@miemss.org.




The Maryland Department of Health is dedicated to protecting and improving the health and safety of all Marylanders through disease prevention, access to care, quality management and community engagement.


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