Regence Customer Service 'first aid' training supports mental health, addresses stigma

By Regence
May 28, 2019
Mental Health First Aid_Group Photo

Main photo: Customer Service professionals in Tacoma, WA, who completed Mental Health First Aid training last month.

May is Mental Health Month, dedicated to raising awareness and eliminating the stigma related to mental health issues. 

When it comes to supporting those dealing with mental health issues, it is critical to first understand how to appropriately respond and react. Regence employees recently learned these lessons firsthand through taking part in Mental Health First Aid, a nationally recognized program that teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to the signs of mental illnesses and mental health crises.

Just as CPR training gives people the skills they need to help in an emergency without formal clinical training, this Mental Health First Aid offered Regence employees a framework to appropriately address, respond and offer help to members experiencing a mental health crisis or who have questions relating to benefits or care.

“Mental Health First Aid is designed to arm anyone at any knowledge level with the skills they need to respond to mental health issues and crises,” said Aaron Murphy, a Regence customer service trainer and Mental Health First Aid instructor. “By educating ourselves through the training and conversing openly around these topics, we can stomp out the stigma that is still so closely tied to the mental health conversation.”

Regence’s behavioral health call queue

To better support our members’ behavioral health needs, we created a specialized team of Customer Service professionals dedicated to mental health support and resources. These 17 individuals recently completed the Mental Health First Aid training, empowering them to address our members’ needs, from benefits explanations to finding providers that can deliver specialized care.

Mental Health First Aid_CS Ambassadors

Mental Health First Aiders Cheyenne Thomas (left) and Clarissa Spencer (right), both Regence Customer Service Ambassadors

“By learning how to first assess the situation, I now have framework for navigating conversations with our members, and can provide a more personalized, empathetic experience,” said Cheyenne Thomas, a Regence customer service ambassador who recently completed the training.

A key element of the training is the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan, or ALGEE:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

In addition to providing a simple framework to help address issues like anxiety, depression and substance use disorders, it also prepares trainees to appropriately address crises like panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.

“The training was hands-on, which made it very effective, and encouraged direct conversations to more effectively understand exactly what a member, colleague or loved one is facing,” said Clarissa Spencer, another customer service ambassador.

By prioritizing appropriate responses, the training also teaches individuals how to address the stigma often tied to mental health.

While the Mental Health First Aid training was initially rolled out to Customer Service, Regence plans to give additional employees the opportunity to participate.

“Our mission is to provide an integrated behavioral health program that promotes the emotional well-being of our members, prioritizes early identification and delivers high-quality, cost-effective treatment in real time,” said Dr. Jim Polo, Regence’s behavioral health medical director. “Through education and talking openly, we can help reduce the stigma around mental health conditions and better serve Regence members and our communities.”

Access Regence Customer Service behavioral health support

Curious about your behavioral health benefits as a Regence member? Need help finding a specialized provider? Our Customer Service team is here to help. Call 1 (888) 367-2119, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST to speak with a Regence customer service professional in the behavioral health call queue.

Mental Health First Aid training is open to the public and led by certified trainers. To learn more about the training and find a class near you, please visit