Mental health funding dies in Ariz. Senate

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The Arizona state legislature this week killed a bill that would have provided a quarter-million dollars in funding for mental health programs.

Mental Health First Aid is an international program that’s grown in popularity over the past few years.  It came to Arizona in the wake of the Tucson massacre that injured Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and helps identify and treat mental health issues before they become destructive.

“This sounds very drastic and very extreme but I would probably be dead,” said Todd Blue, talking about getting help with his mental health struggles following his seven tours of duty as a U.S. Marine.  Blue said he almost lost his wife and kids due to mood swings and anger outbursts triggered by undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Probably for a good nine months or a year we didn't go to any functions with any of our friends because they didn't want me around. A lot of that I didn't know,” said Blue. 

Identifying mental health issues is the biggest challenge when it comes to treatment.  Many experts think if Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner or Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza had gotten the help they needed, dozens of innocent lives might have been spared.
“The federal government has started talking about this as a ‘best practices,’” said Terry Stevens, CEO of Cimpatico Arizona, a mental health services provider that works with Mental Health First Aid.

This past week a bill that would have given a quarter-million dollars to the Mental Health First Aid program died in the Senate after passing the House with overwhelming bi-partisan support.  State Representative Victoria Steele from Tucson is one of the bill’s sponsors.  She said they'll now try to slip the funding into the budget where it would likely receive support from Governor Jan Brewer.

“There are a number of areas that behavioral health, if we can make it more widespread and available early, we can save an enormous amount of money,” said Stevens.

For more information on Mental Health First Aid call: 888.747.9764.