Today, Long Beach firefighters received in-depth training on the best strategies to assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis. In support of their mission, the Long Beach Fire Department Homelessness Education and Response Team (HEART) team delivered an 8-hour class titled “Mental Health First Aid for Fire and EMS” to a group of our newest firefighters.
The mission of the Long Beach Fire HEART Unit is to reduce the number of fire department responses to individuals experiencing homelessness. This is achieved through a rapid response to 911 calls for service, collaboration with continuum of care partners, and educating fire service and community members about local resources and issues surrounding homelessness.
With a focus on treating all people with dignity and respect, and always understanding that we are all part of one community. The HEART team ensures individuals experiencing homelessness have a positive and caring expericence when they interact with the fire department.
The 8-hour course taught today at the Long Beach Fire Department Regional Training Center was delivered by HEART team members Firefighter/Paramedics Joel Davis and Justin Verga. These two individuals are the first Firefighter/Paramedics on the west coast to be be trained and certified to teach "Mental Health First Aid for Fire and EMS”. This accomplishment highlights the organizational commitment on behalf of the fire deparment to educate all firefighters in the City of Long Beach on how to address the needs of someone experiencing a mental illness or substance use-related crisis.
“Mental Health First Aid for Fire and EMS” is a newly developed course that was designed around the premise that as firefighters learn to help others in a mental health crisis, they also learn to recognize and assist other firefighters with the behavioral health issues that affect the first responder community as a result of constant exposure to high stress emergency scenes. The class teaches a five-step action plan that discusses, in depth, the skills, resources and knowledge that are necessary to help an individual who is in crisis connect with the appropriate professional, peer and self-help care.
Firefighters learn the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems. In addition, they learn about the importance of early intervention and how, as first responders, they can intervene in the field and provide direct assistance to someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
Today’s class is the first successful delivery of this curriculum on the west coast. Long Beach became the first fire department in the Nation to require Mental Health First Aid USA’s curriculum as part of the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) portion of the Fire Academy; thereby, making this class a requirement for graduation.
“Mental Health First Aid for Fire and EMS” is done in partnership with Mental Health First Aid USA, a program managed, operated, and disseminated by the National Council for Behavioral Health. Mental Health First Aid is included on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).
About Long Beach Fire Department