State Rep. Terrie Wood, R-141, voted in favor of the bipartisan task force's legislative package to reduce gun violence and enhance school safety on Thursday, April 4.

Wood was instrumental in crafting and implementing the mental health portion of the package in her role as co-chairman of the task force's Mental Health Working Group.

"When I was first nominated as co-chair of the Mental Health Working Group, I knew I would be working in a unique capacity. It was enlightening to hear so many Connecticut citizens during the public hearing process. We took their suggestions wholeheartedly and I am proud of the product we came up with," Wood said.

Wood was committed to making "mental health first aid" a part of that section of the bill. She co-hosted an informational forum at the Capitol about the course and brought in certified instructors to explain the benefits. After recommending the course, she became mental health first aid certified.

"I thought, `How could I stand behind something that I have never experienced?' I felt I owed it to the task force to become as informed as possible in what the Mental Health Working Group was putting forward, so I took the course," Wood added. "This will make a significant difference in helping teachers and school officials to identify the signs of mental illness and help to eliminate the stigma associated with it."

The highlights of the mental health section include:

requiring the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to administer a mental health training program to teach people to recognize the signs of mental illness in children and young adults.

allowing boards of education to offer in-service mental health training.

creating a task force to conduct a comprehensive study of Connecticut's mental health system with a focus on 16- to 25-year-olds.

expanding the DMHAS' assertive community treatment program to three additional locations to provide recovery-oriented treatment and support.

"We need to not only raise awareness about mental illness but also make resources available for those who need help. I believe that the provisions of this bill make Connecticut the leading state in providing and implementing mental health resources," said Wood.

Emergency Certified Bill SB 1160-Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety passed by a vote of 105 to 44 in the state House at 2:26 a.m. April 4. It was signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy later that day.

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