Mental Health Training Classes Returning To Rural Idaho

Mar 16, 2015

Optum Idaho will once again train people in mental-health first aid in rural towns.
Credit Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

The company that manages mental health services for Idaho Medicaid patients is resuming a series of mental health trainings around the state. Optum has been doing what it calls mental health first aid classes for about a year. After taking a few months off, the classes begin in Weiser this Thursday.

A lot of people take a CPR or first aid class so they’ll be prepared, just in case there’s an emergency. Optum’s member and family affairs director Martha Ekhoff says that’s the idea behind mental health first aid classes. She says they teach people what to do if they’re in the presence of someone having a mental health emergency like a panic attack or considering suicide.

The training uses the acronym ALGEE. Ekhoff says the "A" is for assess for risk of suicide or harm, "L" is listen non-judgmentally. "G" reminds people to give assurance and the "Es" stand for encourage people to seek professional help and encourage future self-help and support.

Ekhoff says Optum has done these classes in more populated places like Boise, Meridian and Idaho Falls, but usually they go to small towns.

“There are gaps and there are needs in these communities,” Ekhoff says. “We know how long it takes them to get someone who is having a crisis to a hospital or to another supportive agency.”

Mental health first aid will be offered in Weiser on Thursday and Friday, and in Montpelier next month. For these classes Optum partners with the Speedy Foundation, named for Idaho Olympian Jaret “Speedy” Peterson who killed himself.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio