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Reps. Miller, Smith testify on legislation to ensure mental health assistance during emergencies

HB 363 calls for comprehensive mental health emergency planning
October 21, 2021
Monique Smith News

COLUMBUS— Today, State Reps. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) and Monique Smith (D-Fairview Park) testified before the Ohio House Behavioral Health and Recovery Supports Committee on House Bill (HB) 363, which would expand the powers and duties of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) to include planning, preparing and providing services during pandemics, natural disasters and other major emergencies.

“Mass casualty events and natural disasters can inflict invisible wounds on those who experience or even witness them.  There are ways to build and prepare for traumatic events to combat the mental health impacts of emergencies,” said Rep. Miller. “This legislation calls for such planning with the goal to assist everyone affected.”  

“This pandemic has shown the substantial impact that major emergencies and disasters can have on the lives of our constituents, especially on their mental health,” said Rep. Smith. “We know that there has been an 11% increase in symptoms of anxiety or depression in the last year, according to a census survey. We need to have plans in place for these situations so we can ensure that Ohioans receive the help they need, when they need it most.”

The physical effects of natural disasters may fade with time, but the mental toll of these events can linger, sometimes for years. There are ways to prepare ahead of traumatic events and combat the mental health impacts of natural disasters when they strike.  HB 363 calls for such planning in Ohio’s state and local disaster response with the mandate to assist everyone affected by an emergency or a disaster.

HB 363 would: 

·         Establish plans and procedures for the department and districts to respond to and provide direct support for natural disasters, pandemics, mass casualties, mass fatalities, mass shootings, declared emergencies; 

·         Mandate OHMAS directly provide and coordinate with state, local and regional disaster response agencies and other providers to support emergency employees, first responders, victims, survivors and residents.

HB 363 now awaits further hearing in the House Behavioral Health and Recovery Supports Committee.