L.D. 1335 Testimony

Testimony of the Maine Medical Association

In support of LD 1335,

An Act to Provide Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

to Secondary School Health Educators

Joint Select Committee on Education & Cultural Affairs

Room 202, Cross State Office Building

Monday, April 24, 2017, 9:30 a.m.

Good morning Senator Langley, Representative Kornfield, and Members of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, my name is Peter Michaud. I am Associate General Counsel of the Maine Medical Association and a registered nurse. I live in Readfield, and I am testifying today in support of LD 1335, An Act to Provide Youth Mental Health First Aid Training to Secondary School Health Educators.

The MMA is a professional association representing more than 4,000 physicians, residents, and medical students in Maine whose mission is to support Maine physicians, advance the quality of medicine in Maine, and promote the health of all Maine citizens. We represent physicians from all medical specialties including psychiatry, as well as public health and primary care.

Over the recent years we have seen an increase in the mental health issues that become apparent or are expressed in the school setting. Health teachers are having to deal with these issues in the classroom. LD 1335 will give them additional skills and tools to maximize their abilities to keep their students safe until they are able to call on more highly trained and experienced personnel. First aid is exactly what it says: it is a limited set of skills and techniques designed to be used in a moment of crisis or emergency. This is not a bill to turn teachers into counselors, mental health workers or psychiatrists, any more than a regular first aid course turns guides, police officers, or boy and girl scouts into nurses or physicians. It is designed to allow health teachers to act immediately for the protection of all their students.

LD 1335 would provide for training of health teachers by experts in the field of mental and behavioral health. As a result of this training they would be able to de-escalate emergency situations where the safety of individual students or groups of students might be at risk. They would be able to recognize certain behavioral indicators of potentially serious mental health issues earlier than they would without the training. They would also know better when to refer students to experts for assessment and possible treatment. The most effective intervention is early intervention.

In other words, the training provided by this bill would result in increased student safety along with earlier recognition and treatment of mental health problems, which would lead in turn to fewer problems in the schools and better health for the at-risk students. It is a wise use of public resources, and health teachers are exactly the right people to receive this training.

Thank you for considering the MMA’s perspective on LD 1335. We respectfully ask you to vote the bill “Ought to Pass.” I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.