Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

Name of Innovative Program: 
Making Mental Health Care a First Aid Priority
Sponsoring Organization
American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Laura Cohen
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
First Aid can help people in need of physical health intervention.  What about immediate mental health assistance?Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a public education program that teaches anyone the skills to identify, understand, and respond to signs of behavioral health challenges or crises. First Aid is administered until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved.Led by the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), Philadelphia is one of the first U.S. metropolitan areas to implement MHFA on a large scale, beginning in 2012.In 2013, American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania became a flagship training site for MHFA, offering free bi-weekly MHFA trainings at its Center City Philadelphia headquarters, and in West Philadelphia at Red Cross House—The Center for Disaster Recovery.  Red Cross will train an estimated 360 Philadelphians by June 30, 2014 and plans to continue this partnership through 2016 to reach thousands of participants.  Each MHFA course delivered at a Red Cross site in Philadelphia includes Citizen CPR training, to offer additional lifesaving skills to participants and advance public perception of MHFA as an everyday skill as critical as standard First Aid and CPR training.
Creativity and Innovation: 
This partnership is the first of its kind with the Red Cross, with great potential for replication and growth throughout the country.As mental health is essential to physical health, we nominate the partnership between DBHIDS and American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania for its smart strategy to advance public health awareness and education, change public perception, and increase participation in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).  By placing MHFA among well-known Red Cross courses like First Aid (for physical health emergencies) and CPR training, we will reach new MHFA participants who may not otherwise consider MHFA training and expand the pool of trained Mental Health First Aiders ready to assist people in need. 
This groundbreaking partnership is under the direction of public health leaders, Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Commissioner, Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), and Judge Renée Cardwell Hughes, CEO, American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania.  DBHIDS is pioneering a behavioral health care system transformation, being studied and duplicated worldwide.   The Red Cross has been a leader in first aid for nearly 100 years, with a well-established reputation as a health and safety resource for the public as well as trainings in workplaces, schools, and community centers around the country.  This partnership leverages the public health expertise of DBHIDS and the public trust and reach of the Red Cross to set an example for reaching the public, changing perceptions, and increasing participation.  The collaboration was lauded at the 2013 conference of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (NCBH) and we continue to share outcomes to influence the field.
Each Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for 30 people costs approximately $4,500.  Both the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania and DBHIDS have committed to a three-year pilot period, offering bi-weekly workshops through 2016, possible through the contribution of resources from both partners, as well as past and present grant funding from SAMHSA and OMHSAS.  To ensure continued sustainability and growth for this partnership, both DBHIDS and the Red Cross are pursuing additional financial support from community partners.  As the number of MHFA aiders trained through the Red Cross increases, we will leverage public support and demand for the partnership to sustain this work. MHFA has received an increase in national attention from the current administration and legislation, and we hope this attention will drive the additional availability of public funding. 
By 2020 the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (NCBH) aims for MHFA to be just as common as CPR training.  Through the trust the public places in the American Red Cross, we hope to reduce the stigma of mental health crisis and treatment, and generate broad-based public awareness and support for MHFA.  This partnership in Philadelphia pioneers what NCBH hopes will become a national partnership.  There is tremendous potential, through the Red Cross’s national network of chapters serving every region in the U.S., to ensure Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is available in cities and towns throughout the country.  To further drive national implementation, in partnership with key stakeholders, including American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania, DBHIDS has created a MHFA Implementation Strategic Plan. This plan will be a road map that can be utilized by other cities and states and will be available nationally. 
By January 2015, through the partnership between DBIDHS and the Red Cross and other training sites, we aim to train 10,000 new Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Aiders in Philadelphia, and with success, reach even more through potential project expansion to other Red Cross chapters.  Research shows that MHFA leads to greater recognition of behavioral health disorders, increased confidence in one’s ability to help, increased amount of help provided, and decreased stigmatizing attitudes while promoting inclusion.  MHFA training has been accredited by the National Society for Human Resource Management (NHRM) for CEU's and was included in the SAMHSA Registry of Evidence Based Programs in July 2013.  Drexel University School of Public Health is currently evaluating the MHFA program in Philadelphia to measure use of and confidence applying the MHFA assessment model (ALGEE); use of referrals, change in Aiders’ attitudes, and to gather anecdotal stories from Aiders about MHFA.