The number of pedestrian deaths in Connecticut in the first half of 2018 jumped by 53 percent compared to the same period the previous year, according to preliminary data released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. There were 29 pedestrian deaths between January and June in Connecticut in 2018, compared with 19 between January and June 2017. Based on population, Connecticut’s fatality rate was 16th among the states.
Nationwide, there was a 3 percent increases, as the number of pedestrian deaths climbed from 2,790 to 2,876 during the six month periods. Five states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas) accounted for almost half — 46 percent — of all pedestrian deaths during the first six months of 2018.
Overall, pedestrian fatalities during the first half of 2018 declined in 23 states compared with the same period in 2017. Six states (Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma and Wisconsin) reported double-digit declines in both the number and percent change in pedestrian fatalities from the same period in 2017. Three states (Iowa, New Hampshire and Utah) reported two consecutive years of declining numbers of pedestrian fatalities.
During the 10-year period of 2008 to 2017, according to the National Highway traffic Safety Administration, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. increased by 35 percent, from 4,414 deaths in 2008 to 5,977 deaths in 2017. This translates into more than 1,500 additional pedestrian deaths in 2017 compared with 2008. At the same time that pedestrian deaths have been increasing, the number of all other traffic deaths combined decreased by six percent.
In its review of state efforts to promote pedestrian safety, an initiative in Connecticut is highlighted: “Connecticut introduced the “Watch for Me CT” campaign, which is a statewide educational community outreach campaign involving media components and community engagement in partnership with CT Children’s Medical Center.” A statewide signage project was recently completed to ensure pedestrian signage was up to date with current standards, including near schools and bus stops, the report states, indicating that “every state is addressing pedestrian safety using a combination of engineering, education and enforcement.”
In addition, the GHSA report indicates that nationwide “about 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur after dark, and increases in pedestrian fatalities are occurring largely at night. From 2008 to 2017 the number of nighttime pedestrian fatalities increased by 45 percent, compared to a much smaller, 11 percent increase in daytime pedestrian fatalities.”
The change in the prevalence of various vehicle-types on the road is also noted, with the report pointing out that pedestrians struck by a large SUV are twice as likely to die as those struck by car.
The collective response to America’s opioid crisis has opened a new front in Connecticut in an unlikely location – the public library. Driven by a desire to be prepared to save a life, a growing number of libraries – in communities large and small – now have the opioid reversal drug naloxone on hand, with librarians trained in how to use it. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.
The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a nationwide public health advisory, to “urge more Americans to carry a potentially lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.” That office reports that an estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S. struggle with an opioid use disorder.
For Marlborough’s Richmond Memorial Library, the decision to train three staff members to administer the medication was wholly consistent with what a library is all about, as director Nancy Wood explains.
“I liken it to the defibrillator that we brought in to the library two years ago. If you are saving a life for one reason, you can save a life for another. And it is a cultural thing for librarians to want to help people. It is what we do.”
As a significant public place in Marlborough, open more hours than just about any other building in town, Wood says that although “hopefully we never have to use it,” she and her staff felt it was important to be trained and ready. The AHM Youth & Family Services organization provided the training last March.
Rates of opioid overdose deaths are rapidly increasing nationwide and in Connecticut. Since 2010, the number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. has doubled from more than 21,000 to more than 42,000 in 2016. Overdose deaths in Connecticut have nearly tripled in a six-year period, from 357 in 2012 to 1,038 in 2017. Of those 1,038 deaths, 677 involved fentanyl — a synthetic opioid drug 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin — either by itself or with at least one other drug, according to published reports.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between June 2017 and June 2018, there were 1,056 reported cases of drug overdose deaths, based on provisional data, in Connecticut. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that the opioid overdose death rate in Connecticut was the 10th highest in the nation, and the percentage increase between 2016 and 2017 was 17th highest in the U.S., exceeding the national average.
Hartford recently announced a $10,000 grant from CIGNA Foundation that will train librarians in the city and cover the purchase of naloxone for city libraries.
“As a public institution, we see that our entire community is impacted by the opioid crisis; it was clear that a rapid and robust response to the problems caused by the opioid drug crisis was imperative,” said library CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey as the grant was announced earlier this month. Library officials also plan to provide information about opioid abuse awareness and host education and information forums.
When the town of Canton made training available for department heads last year, library director Sarah McCusker took the one-day session. Like Wood, she views it as an extension of first aid training that can help a patron in distress.
“It’s the same as knowing CPR or having an AED on-site. We call 911 immediately, but we see everything, and we’d like to be prepared,” McCusker explained. She also believes employees in public spaces should be “widely trained” to assist in emergency situations. And she anticipates that if her town government makes training in the use of naloxone available again this year, although it is not mandated, additional staff members will choose to attend.
The Connecticut Library Consortium indicates that while official figures are not available, reports of libraries having naloxone available, along with official policies governing its use and trained staff members, are increasing. Hartford, Marlborough, Canton and Avon are among them. Other libraries have librarians on staff who have sought and received individual training. For many libraries, it is a major health issue that their municipalities and local governing boards are reviewing, and one that impacts cities and small towns.
The naloxone brand NARCAN® Nasal Spray is a pre-filled, needle-free device that requires no assembly and is sprayed into one nostril while patients lay on their back. Those prepared to administer it have been trained on the signs of an opioid overdoes, and how to respond immediately as 911 is called for a local ambulance response.
“Public libraries are responsible for meeting the wide-ranging needs of their communities. Yes, libraries offer books and storytime programs and research help that goes beyond Google. But they are also the place to turn to find a job, become a citizen, discover a new app, find quality healthcare information, make art, or learn a new skill,” said Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium. “Having library staff who are trained to administer NARCAN is another way that libraries are evolving with their communities and are ready to provide help whenever and however it is needed.”
Across the United States, a total of 4,440 pedestrians and 364 cyclists were killed at night, in dark conditions, in 2017. A new analysis reveals that those after-dark fatalities account for the vast majority of all such fatalities each year. The share of all fatalities occurring in dark conditions is slowly rising, climbing from to nearly 72 percent in 2017 from 67 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2007. Roughly a third occur in dark, unlighted conditions, while the other approximately 40 percent are reported near streetlights or other dark, lighted conditions. The analysis, by GOVERNING magazine, looked at the total pedestrian/cyclist deaths and per capita fatality rates for metropolitan areas with populations exceeding 200,000, including four metro areas in Connecticut, 2015-2017. Total 2015-17 fatalities nationally were 20,004, with 14,153 during hours when it was dark.
The highest number of fatalities in that multi-year period in Connecticut during darkness occurred in the New Haven metropolitan area, 32. The Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford region has 27 deaths, the Hartford area had 26. The Norwich-New London region had 5 deaths.
Nationally, pedestrian and cyclist fatalities occurring in all lighting conditions have generally climbed in recent years nationally, but the largest increases are occurring after sunset.
Between 2010 and 2017, annual fatalities in dark conditions (both lighted and unlighted) jumped by 46 percent. Over the same period, they rose only 15 percent in daylight. Totals for dawn (+33 percent) and dusk (+43 percent) lighting conditions also increased significantly, although they accounted for just a few hundred such traffic deaths, GOVERNING reported.
The data breaks down whether the fatality occurred in dark but lighted or dark, unlighted conditions. In each Connecticut metro area, the vast majority occurred in dark but lighted circumstances. The numbers were 22-10 in the New Haven area, 22-5 in the Bridgeport region and 21-5 in the Hartford area.
The analysis used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, which records lighting conditions in its traffic fatality database. The federal Office of Management and Budget’s latest definitions for metro areas, current as of September 2018, were used.
An analysis to determine the top 20 companies across the globe that are “profiting the most from war,” finds two with Connecticut connections. Virginia’s General Dynamics, parent company of Groton-based Electric Boat is ranked at #6 and Farmington-headquartered United Technologies is at #11. In its analysis, the website 24/7 Wall St. indicated that “global military spending increased by 3.9% in 2017, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The global rise was driven partially by a $9.6 billion hike in U.S. spending — the United States is the world’s largest defense spender by a wide margin. What growing arms investments will mean for the future of international peace is unclear. What is clear is that defense companies around the world are benefitting tremendously.”
The analysis also found that:
- Total arms sales among the world’s 100 largest defense contractors topped $398 billion in 2017 after climbing for the third consecutive years.
- Russia became the second largest arms-producing country this year, overtaking the United Kingdom for the first time since 2002.
- The United States is home to half of the world’s 10 largest defense contractors, and American companies account for 57% of total arms sales of the world’s 100 largest defense contractors (based on SIPRI data).
Leading the list was Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the world, with $44.9 billion in arms sales. Rounding out the top five were Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems, and Northrup Grumman.
For United Technologies, the analysis indicated arms sales of $7.8 billion, total sales of $59.8 billion, and profit of $4.9 billion, led by its subsidiary brands Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney. Collins Aerospace designs and sells advanced systems for military helicopters, including rescue hoists, autopilot systems, and laser guided weapon warning systems, the report noted. Pratt & Whitney designs and manufactures engines currently in use by 34 militaries worldwide.
United Technologies recently announced plans to split into three independent companies. Plans are for company’s defense division to remain under the United Technologies name, as the Otis Elevator Company and Carrier breaking off as independent entities.
During 2017, General Dynamics – based in Falls Church, Virginia, - sold $19.5 billion worth of arms, the fifth most of any U.S. company and the sixth most of any company worldwide. In the past year, General Dynamics earned a $5.1 billion contract to design and develop a prototype of the Columbia-class submarine. Electric Boat was awarded a contract modification to continue development of the US Navy’s next-generation Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine.
“In close collaboration with the navy and the submarine industrial base, Electric Boat will continue to lead key aspects of the Columbia-class development effort,” said General Dynamics Electric Boat president Jeffrey S Geiger. “This work includes design, material procurement, construction and operating cost reduction. The entire Columbia-class team is committed to achieving an affordable and effective programme. Our nation’s security depends on it.”
An NBC News investigation of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has found that more than 1,000 out of HUD’s nearly 28,000 federally subsidized multifamily properties failed their most recent inspection — a failure rate that is more than 30 percent higher than in 2016, according to an analysis of HUD records. When NBC broke the story last week of the agency’s dismal record of responding to conditions that at times have been described a “life-threatening,” the example cited most prominently was in Hartford.
The news report stated that “A federal housing inspection in February confirmed living conditions were abysmal … throughout the 52-unit Section 8 development known as the Infill apartments. The property scored only 27 points out of 100, far below the 60 points needed to pass the mandatory health and safety inspection.” Infill is located in Hartford’s North End.
“More than nine months after the inspection, federally mandated deadlines for action have come and gone, and residents say little has changed,” NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reported, despite “citations for exposed wiring, missing smoke detectors and bug infestations,” noted that “the Infill units racked up 113 health and safety violations — including 24 that HUD deemed ‘life-threatening.’”
“In one of Hartford’s poorest neighborhoods, a three-month investigation by NBC News found that HUD failed to comply with federal laws requiring prompt action against the owner of a property that authorities knew was unsafe, unhealthy and in disrepair, according to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act,” Gosk reported.
While the agency pointed out that 96 percent nationwide passed inspections, NBC reported that “HUD’s enforcement office, tasked with going after the worst landlords, now has the lowest staff levels since 1999, according to a federal watchdog.”
“In the case of Infill, though, HUD acknowledged that the landlord failed to deliver,” NBC News reported. “The owner provided certain assurances to our field folks that, in the end, did not happen,” HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said in an email to NBC News. “That hasn't stopped the federal subsidies,” NBC News reported.
"It's a flow of money that continues to come," AJ Johnson, a local pastor who has helped the tenants organize, told NBC News. “Whether it’s indifference or incompetence, the Trump administration’s failures in Connecticut and around the country cannot be excused. Someone must be held accountable,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who led previous efforts to strengthen the HUD inspection process, NBC News reported. “Secretary [Ben] Carson owes it to these families to present a concrete plan for how he will make this better, and how he’ll make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Infill’s owner, meanwhile, is “set for years to come,” the NBC News report concluded. “In July 2017, just seven months before the failed inspection, HUD renewed its contract with Isaacson for 20 years — a deal worth over $14 million.”
The NBC News investigation was reported, in addition to Gosk, by Suzy Khimm, Laura Strickler and Hanna Rappleye, and included interviews with numerous tenants of the property and other individuals in Hartford and Washington.
Massachusetts begins the sale of recreational marijuana on Tuesday, in Northampton and Leicester, as Connecticut looks ahead to a new Governor and new legislature, taking office in six weeks, with the addition of recreational sales on the agenda to complement a thriving medical marijuana program. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. The District of Columbia and 10 states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- have adopted the most expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to Governing magazine. The Massachusetts law was approved two years ago, but retail sales have not begun - until this week.
Governor-elect Ned Lamont told Connecticut Public Radio listeners, just a few days prior to his election, that “I think legalizing marijuana is an idea whose time has come…and I’m gonna push it in the first year” of the new administration. He added that “maybe we should tax this, regulate it in a serious way, put some of that money toward opioid treatment.”
Most recently, Michigan voters approved a ballot measure permitting adults age 21 and over to purchase and possess recreational-use marijuana. Vermont became the first state earlier this year to legalize marijuana for recreational use through the legislative process, rather than via a ballot measure. Vermont's law allows for adults age 21 and over to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis. However, it does not permit the sale of nonmedical cannabis. Some other state laws similarly decriminalized marijuana, but did not initially legalize retail sales.
The Connecticut General Assembly's Regulations Review Committee agreed last week that chronic neuropathic pain associated with degenerative spinal disorders is eligible for treatment with the drug, adding that to the list of approved conditions. There are now 31 conditions that have been approved for adults and eight for patients under 18 that can be treated with medical marijuana. Minors can be treated for eight conditions.
There are currently 29,543 patients in Connecticut's medical marijuana program and 1,000 certifying physicians, according to published reports. In recent months, DCP has launched a database listing medical marijuana brands registered with the state and added eight new conditions to the program. The eight new conditions for adults added this summer include: Spasticity, or neuropathic pain associated with fibromyalgia; Severe rheumatoid arthritis; Postherpetic neuralgia; Hydrocephalus with intractable headache; Intractable headache syndromes; Neuropathic facial pain; Muscular dystrophy; and Osteogenesis imperfecta.
Last month, Rhode Island’s Department of Health this week approved medical marijuana use for people who suffer from some severe manifestations of autism, most of whom are children. But before doctors can recommend marijuana, the health department has implemented several safeguards "to ensure that patients are being treated safely." Seven other states have made autism a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, according to advocacy group #cannabis4autism: Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
At the University of Connecticut, Professor Gerald Berkowitz will teach students about marijuana growing, a burgeoning industry as more states legalize cannabis use for medical and/or recreational purposes. The UConn class — called "Horticulture of Cannabis: from seed to harvest" — is a lecture course, and it's attracted about 270 students who will begin studies in January, Hartford Business Journal reported this month.
In Colorado, the adult-use marijuana market continues to surge nearly five years after the launch of recreational sales in the state, according to a recent news report. Through August 2018 – the most recent data available from the Colorado Department of Revenue – recreational marijuana sales topped $800 million and the state is on pace to surpass $1.2 billion by the end of the year. That would represent a 12 percent increase over total sales in 2017. As of August 2017, 498 recreational stores were licensed throughout the state; that number grew to 541 by September 1, 2018 – a 9 percent increase
A coalition of global institutional and private investors, including the $35-billion Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds (CRPTF), has announced plans to be guided by a newly developed set of principles developed to encourage a “responsible civilian firearms industry.” The guidelines, established as part of their “fiduciary responsibility,” aim to encourage the firearms industry to address gun safety issues. Since the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy, Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier has engaged with companies in which the State invests that manufacture, distribute and sell guns and ammunition, raising the business case for reasonable regulation of firearms and ammunition sales in order to mitigate the potential long-term business risk posed by high rates of mortality that are attributed to the misuse of firearms, according to the Treasurer’s Office.
“The proliferation of gun violence is not only a public health issue but also a business risk issue, both of which are central to our fiduciary role as long-term institutional shareholders,” Treasurer Nappier said.
The launch of the Principles for a Responsible Civilian Firearms Industry by investors with combined assets under management of more than $4.8 trillion builds on the Treasury’s engagement effort. Among the institutional investors signing on to the new principles are funds in states that have seen headline-raising mass shootings, including Florida and California, in addition to Connecticut.
The principles would apply to public and private companies that are involved in the manufacture, sale and distribution of civilian firearms, officials said. They are focused on reducing risk, which is a priority for institutional investors who have a fiduciary obligation to invest pension assets prudently and to monitor and manage risks.
Over the past decade, shootings involving multiple victims have been on the rise with 2017 being the worst year on record. It is estimated that in 2017 alone, excluding suicides, more than 15,000 people were killed by guns in the United States including students, teachers, and law enforcement officers, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that tracks media and law enforcement reports of shootings.
This year there have been several shootings resulting in multiple fatalities at schools, bars, religious institutions and other places where large numbers of people congregate.
“We must do better,” Treasurer Nappier said. “We must continue to speak out, contribute constructively to the public debate over this important issue, and achieve the outcome for which we all strive: the safety of our communities and of all our citizens.”
The five principles serve as a conversation starter for investors to use when engaging companies to be active participants in protecting and enhancing long-term portfolio values by ensuring risks are being appropriately monitored and addressed. The five principles include:
- Principle 1: Manufacturers should support, advance and integrate the development of technology designed to make civilian firearms safer, more secure, and easier to trace.
- Principle 2: Manufacturers should adopt and follow responsible business practices that establish and enforce responsible dealer standards and promote training and education programs for owners designed around firearms safety.
- Principle 3: Civilian firearms distributors, dealers, and retailers should establish, promote, and follow best practices to ensure that no firearm is sold without a completed background check in order to prevent sales to persons prohibited from buying firearms or those too dangerous to possess firearms.
- Principle 4: Civilian firearms distributors, dealers, and retailers should educate and train their employees to better recognize and effectively monitor irregularities at the point of sale, to record all firearm sales, to audit firearms inventory on a regular basis, and to proactively assist law enforcement.
- Principle 5: Participants in the civilian firearms industry should work collaboratively, communicate, and engage with the signatories of these Principles to design, adopt, and disclose measures and metrics demonstrating both best practices and their commitment to promoting these Principles.
“More companies are recognizing that we do not need to work through these issues as adversaries, because we are not. We share a common interest in their future growth and success, and in promoting the sustainable health of the economic, social and environmental framework within which they exist,” Nappier said. “Our investments and the future well-being of millions of American pension fund beneficiaries are dependent on responsible corporate governance and citizenship of the portfolio companies in which we invest, but we also can influence it.”
Signatories, besides the CRPTF, include: the California Public Employees Retirement System; the California State Teachers’ Retirement System; the Florida State Board of Administration; the Maine Public Employees Retirement System; the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System; Nuveen, the asset manager of TIAA; OIP Investment Trust; the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund; Rockefeller Asset Management; the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System; State Street Global Advisors; and Wespath Investment Management.
The principles were conceived earlier this year when Harvard University Advanced Leadership Fellow Christianna Wood and Christopher J. Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), convened a group of asset owners, asset managers, and financial institutions to design pragmatic principles for portfolio company engagement in the firearms industry that both gun manufacturers and retailers could embrace.
“The objective of the initiative was to mitigate reputational and financial risk in the investment portfolio. We believe these principles will help to ensure the long-term financial health of the civilian firearms industry and where possible, allow for continued investment/funding of companies within the industry,” the coalition said.
“These principles are an engagement solution to divestment and meant to stimulate productive dialog within the industry. Working together, we can build and leverage solid relationships as we make progress toward mitigating risks, not only to the civilian firearms industry, but also on behalf of our investments,” Ailman said.
Treasurer Nappier said that the Treasury will use the principles as a foundation for conversation and collaboration with the companies in the gun industry in which the CRPTF has investments. Nappier will conclude 20 years as State Treasurer in January. She did not seek re-election, and will be succeeded in office by Shawn Wooden, who was elected by Connecticut voters earlier this month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report this year which indicated that suicide rates nationally jumped by 25 percent since 1999, a finding that “shocked” even experts who believed the rate had been flat. Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Connecticut's rate, 9.7 deaths per 100,000, rose 20 percent during that time, and 49 states saw an increase, according to the CDC. Connecticut’s suicide rate, is ranked number 46 in the country.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. with one occurring on average every 13.3 minutes.
For every suicide, there are 30 people who made the attempt, Dr. James F. O'Dea, vice president of the Behavior Health Network of Hartford Healthcare, recently told the Meriden Record-Journal. The U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration reports that “approximately 45% of suicide victims had contact with primary care providers within 1 month of suicide.”
“Connecticut suicide rates may have not have increased as much in comparison to other states, but isn’t the real question, ‘Why is it increasing at all?’” Luis Perez, president and CEO of Mental Health Connecticut, told The Hartford Courant earlier this year.
“It’s been well-researched that most people who die by suicide do so because they want the pain to stop — and they don’t see any other way,” Perez said. “Prevention is critical. Knowing the safe and right way to talk to someone who may have thoughts of suicide and letting people know they are not alone, that millions of people struggle with suicide ideation is key.”
According to the state Department of Public Health, approximately 31 percent of victims had a history of treatment for mental illness and 42 percent had previously attempted or thought about suicide or disclosed their intent to commit suicide. The CDC offers 5 steps to help someone at risk: 1. Ask. 2. Keep them safe. 3. Be there. 4. Help them connect. 5. Follow up.
The U.S. government’s anti-bullying website, stopbullying.com, points out that “many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history. Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.” The site indicates that “this risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools. Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.”
Matt Riley, Chief Operating Officer of the Connecticut-based Jordan Porco Foundation, recently told WTNH-TV that suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 24. One in ten college students and one in five high school students consider suicide. Young people considering suicide are most likely to talk to peers, so the Jordan Porco Foundation focuses on peer-to-peer outreach and awareness, with a series of successful program initiatives on college campuses in Connecticut and across the country.
In recent years, a new student-driven primary prevention program was piloted to help high school students develop positive coping skills and enhance protective factors in preparation for life beyond high school. Schools and organizations participating included Manchester High School, Immaculate High School in Danbury, Enfield Public Schools, Capital Preparatory High School in Hartford, Institute of Living in Hartford, Jewish Family Services in West Hartford, Wilton High School, Boys & Girls Club of Bristol, and Guilford Youth & Family Services.
Numerous organizations across Connecticut offer Mental Health First Aid, an 8-hour training to teach participants how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it helps trainees identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The course is often offered to participants free of charge.