Governor announces $2.9 in federal funding to strengthen emergency preparedness

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has announced that the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) has been awarded nearly $2.9 million in federal funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to help state officials meet the behavioral health needs of citizens affected by traumatic events such as natural disasters, mass shootings, and other large-scale man-made and terrorist events.

“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 DeWine. “It is essential that our behavioral healthcare system is able to quickly respond to the immediate and long-term behavioral health care needs of those adversely affected by trauma. These funds will accomplish just that by strengthening Ohio’s emergency preparedness planning and ensuring a swift, coordinated response when surges in behavioral health needs inevitably occur.”

OhioMHAS will use the funding to help establish necessary statewide and local partnerships, policies, procedures, and protocols that create the systemic changes necessary to immediately deploy essential behavioral health supports and resources in every community across the state in the aftermath of tragedies. Plans include development and enhancement of multidisciplinary mobile crisis teams that can be deployed rapidly 24/7, anywhere in the state for swift crisis support and response in providing care in the immediate days, weeks and months after a traumatic event.

“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 already proactively developed a Behavioral Health Emergency and Disaster Planning — Preparedness and Resource Manual for Fiscal Years 2023-24. The initial draft of this plan was developed by synthesizing best practice information and resource materials from a host of local, county, state, and federal partners. The plan has a particular emphasis on addressing mental health crises among adults with Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and youth with Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED). 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

OhioMHAS works closely with the EMA, DPS, and other state agency and federal partners in all aspects of disaster planning and preparedness so that the impact on behavioral health and the identification of needed supports is part of the planning and deployment of Ohio’s disaster response plans.

When people experience a disaster, either natural or man-made, they may experience a variety of reactions, many of which are natural responses to difficult situations. Most people show resilience — the ability to bounce back, cope with adversity, and endure during difficult situations. However, it is also common and expected for people to show signs of stress after exposure to a disaster making it important to monitor the physical and emotional health of those affected as well as those responding to the needs of others.

“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.

This additional federal funding comes nearly a week after OhioMHAS was awarded a $209,402 federal Supplemental Emergency Response grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help meet the immediate and ongoing behavioral health needs of the East Palestine community.

Learn more about Ohio’s behavioral health emergency preparedness efforts at: