Congresswoman honored for championing mental health legislation

Rep. Lynn Jenkins was presented with a National Council Behavioral Health Champion Award on Dec. 14. The 2nd District congresswoman has been instrumental in the introduction and championing of the Mental Health First Aid Act and securing funding for mental health training for fiscal year 2016.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins was presented with a National Council Behavioral Health Champion Award on Dec. 14. The 2nd District congresswoman has been instrumental in the introduction and championing of the Mental Health First Aid Act and securing funding for mental health training for fiscal year 2016. by Jeff Burkhead

David Johnson, CEO at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence, remembers the first time Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins toured the Center and heard stories about people whose lives had been changed because of the services they received.

The congresswoman also heard about the funding challenges facing community mental health centers. And when it was time to leave, she asked what she could do to help.

Since then, she’s done plenty.

Last year, Jenkins, (R-Kan.) co-authored legislation that authorizes funding in the 2016 budget for Mental Health First Aid, a national training program that helps people identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness. For her efforts on behalf of expanding funding for mental health services, Jenkins was presented a National Council Behavioral Health Champion Award on Monday at the Bert Nash Center. Representatives from the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas and Family and Guidance Center in Topeka were on hand for the presentation as well as Bert Nash staff and board members.

“When I talked to the congresswoman about Mental Health First Aid, which is a program that is dear to us around here, boy, did she grab onto that,” Bert Nash CEO Johnson said. “There’s not a lot you can get done unless you have a person who because of her leadership in the Republican Caucus can really get something done in Congress. We so appreciate everything Rep. Jenkins has done for us, and I’m glad we get to participate in an opportunity to recognize her.”

The Bert Nash Center was one of seven pilot sites in the nation that began offering Mental Health First Aid training in 2008.

“No one has had more impact in this field than Congresswoman Jenkins,” said Jeannie Campbell, executive vice president of the National Council on Behavioral Health, which represents about 2,500 organizations across the country that provide community-based mental health services. “We are so blessed to have such a passionate champion to work with. This award recognizes the dedication she has for Mental Health First Aid, which is saving lives around the country.”

For her part, Jenkins said, “Kansas has been a leader in Mental Health First Aid, which is something we should all be proud of. This award really belongs to this community, because this issue touches every community I know. This is a very personal issue to me. A family member was in crisis earlier this year and got the help that was needed at the appropriate time. I will forever be grateful for those who have their eyes open to help people who are in crisis and need services. You all do great work.”

For information about Mental Health First Aid classes, visit bertnash.org.

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