COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – In hopes to be better prepared in the future for any disasters — manmade or natural — the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) has been awarded nearly $2.9 million in federal funding.

This funding comes from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which helps state officials meet the behavioral health needs of citizens who could be impacted by traumatic events such as natural disasters, mass shootings, and other large-scale man-made disasters.

“The recent train derailment in East Palestine is a prime example of how disasters can impact the well-being of individuals, families and communities,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “It is essential that our behavioral healthcare system is able to quickly respond to the immediate and long-term behavioral healthcare needs of those adversely affected by trauma.” 

OhioMHAS plans to use the funding to establish statewide and local partnerships, policies, procedures, and protocols in order to deploy essential behavioral health support and resources in every community in the aftermath of tragedies. These plans include the development of a multidisciplinary mobile crisis team that can be deployed rapidly 24/7, from anywhere in the state. These teams would be then able to support communities immediately after an event and continue supporting them for months after.

“Preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and traumatic events is essential to the behavioral health of individuals and communities alike,” said OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss. “Although everyone reacts differently to disasters and most will return to normal, some of those affected may suffer from serious and prolonged mental or emotional distress. Finding support in a timely fashion will help people minimize negative outcomes.”

OhioMHAS has developed a plan for Fiscal Years 2023-24, the Behavioral Health Emergency and Disaster Planning — Preparedness and Resource Manual.

The plan was developed by compiling best practice information and resource materials from a host of local, county, state and federal partners. The plan has a large emphasis on mental health.

Key objectives include:

  • Creating a statewide oversight structure via the Ohio Mental Health Emergency Preparedness Team
  • Establishing and/or enhancing the work of Regional Disaster Preparedness Teams
  • Conducting a statewide gap analysis
  • Optimizing Ohio’s 988 system
  • Improving interagency coordination
  • Enhancing response to school violence and mass shootings
  • Increasing training and post-trauma treatment for first responders

“Strength and resiliency are part of Ohio’s DNA. While this work is state-led, our goal is to help local communities forge strategic partnerships and equip them with the tools they need so that when tragedies occur, they can respond quickly to meet the emotional and behavioral health needs of impacted residents,” said Criss.  

To learn more about Ohio’s behavioral health preparedness, visit its website.