Buffalo, New York - With an increasing need for mental health resources since the onset of the COVID-19 global health pandemic, Mayor Byron W. Brown today announced a new partnership between the Buffalo Police Department’s Behavioral Health Team (BHT), the Department of Community Services, Division of Citizen Services, and Compeer of Greater Buffalo that will provide virtual Mental Health First Aid training to members of the Buffalo community. Buffalo is the first municipality in New York State to spearhead such an initiative.
“Mental Health First Aid training is more essential than ever, as our city, like other cities across the country, faces a wave of mental health issues as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 global health pandemic. I am pleased to provide members of our community, who interact with people every day, with this important
training. I thank Compeer of Greater Buffalo for partnering with us and providing us with another tool that will expand our efforts in the area of mental health.”
The initiative is called Mayor Brown’s Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) program. Today, 20 community participants, made up of clergy, block club members, Buffalo Peacemakers, small business owners, several youth and police officers, signed up to receive a full day of virtual training by Compeer of Greater Buffalo Mental Health Services. New training sessions will be scheduled in 2021 for other community members to take part in.
According to Compeer, the mental health first aid training follows the National Council of Behavioral Health Standards and provides those trained with the skills needed to identify the next steps when encountered with a mental health challenge or mental health crisis. The newly trained MHFA participants will receive regular updates from the Buffalo Police Department’s Behavioral Health Team, under the direction of Captain Amber Beyer.
Captain Beyer stated, “As a member of Compeers advisory committee, I am excited that the Mayor has looked for a way to expand the delivery of this important training. We look forward to staying in contact with Mayor Brown’s Mental Health First Aiders. I thank Mayor Brown for providing us with yet another tool to further support those in our community who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Deputy Mayor Dr. Ellen Grant said, “This Pandemic continues to shine a light on the fact that one in five Americans already suffers from some form of a mental health condition. As calls to crisis hot lines or behavioral health organizations continue to increase during the pandemic, we need more people in the
community to know the signs that someone is suffering from anxiety, stress or depression. It’s the first step in getting them the help they need.”
Today, Compeer Mental Health First Aid Certified Instructors trained participants in mental health literacy, understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Upon completion, participants, now referred to as Mental Health First Aiders, received a 3-year certification in Mental Health First Aid.
Compeer Executive Director Timothy M. Boling stated, “We applaud Mayor Brown and the City of Buffalo for partnering with Compeer of Greater Buffalo to provide members of our community with this important training, giving them the tools they need to assist or counsel when a mental health issue arises. With a rise in cases of depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD and others since the start of the pandemic, specialized training can be key to identifying warning signs.”
Citizens Services Director Oswaldo Mestre stated, “Anything we can do to effectively train our friends and neighbors on how to recognize and respond to mental health situations in a restorative manner, especially before it’s a crisis, is important. COVID-19 is exacerbating all sorts of mental health conditions, and I thank Mayor Brown for providing hope through his new MHFA training program.”
Community Services Commissioner Otis T. Barker stated, “I’m happy to team up with Compeer and many concerned citizens of our community who understand the needs and the serious nature of mental health. The more citizens who receive training, the more sensitive we become as a community to the needs of all.”
The new Mental Health First Aid Training program is another component of Mayor Brown’s Buffalo Reform Agenda, which was the City’s response to local and national calls to reform police practices and embrace a restorative model for local law enforcement. To learn more about these reform efforts visit the City webpage at www.buffalony.gov.
Compeer has been conducting such training since 2014 and has trained over 5,000 people in a variety of settings from schools and colleges to businesses. It’s the leading organization in the community that provides such training. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need to increase awareness of acute mental health issues and equipping people with tools to help direct patients to the mental health resources they need. For more information about the program, go to compeerbuffalo.org or contact Katie Walsh, Director of Mental Health Education @firstname.lastname@example.org.