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Our Opinion: Missouri marks achievement in mental health

March 24, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. | Updated March 24, 2014 at 12:00 p.m.

The results of a mental health initiative in Missouri are encouraging.

A report from Mental Health First Aid USA ranks Missouri second-highest among the states with residents trained in Mental Health First Aid.

The training is designed to teach people how to recognize, understand and respond to signs of mental health. Similar to standard first aid, the knowledge and training can save lives.

Mental health issues are varied and typically create challenges for people to lead productive, fulfilling lives. On occasion, mental health issues also may play a role in highly publicized aberrant or criminal behavior.

In the past - including in aftermath of high-profile tragedies - we have advocated the need for improved mental health initiatives.

The accomplishments of this initiative were announced by Gov. Jay Nixon last week during a training session in Columbia.

Although an accompanying news release cited "Gov. Nixon's initiative" and quoted Mental Health Director Keith Schafer praising the governor's "visionary leadership," the achievement is not singular.

We commend the governor's role, but his metaphoric spotlight also must illuminate a range of mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel and community members who participated.

Credit Nixon with recommending $10 million for the initiative, but include the state lawmakers who approved it.

The initiative includes: placing mental health liaisons in 29 community mental health centers statewide; expanding training statewide; and equipping emergency room intervention teams to respond to patients in need of coordinated care.

Law enforcement agencies also are beneficiaries of the initiative. "Individuals who would use a tremendous amount of law enforcement time and resources are now connected with services," said St. Louis County Police Sgt. Jeremy Romo. "This is a remarkable program and one of the best examples of community policing I have seen in my career."

The men and women involved in Mental Health First Aid are contributing to human services, public safety and overall health in Missouri.

May their ranks continue to grow.

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