Colts team up with physician assistants to offer mental health training

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The Indianapolis Colts organization is rolling out the latest installment of its “Kick the Stigma” campaign to raise awareness of mental health disorders by offering training to a dozen Indiana-based physician assistants.

The football team said Monday afternoon it has teamed up with the American Academy of Physician Associates, which renamed itself last year from American Academy of Physician Assistants, on an initiative to provide training on identifying and responding to mental conditions and mental health disorders.

Physician assistants perform many of the tasks of primary care doctors, such as examining patients and ordering tests. They perform these duties in all 50 states and in numerous medical settings and specialties.

“PAs are in a unique position to help patients with mental illnesses because they are often the first point of contact for patients in primary care and other practices,” the two organizations said in a joint statement.

The partnership was announced at the academy’s national conference in Indianapolis. The Colts are donating $85,000 to the program, and the academy is donating $30,000.

The program will offer training in “evidence and skill-based Mental Health First Aid” for 12 Indiana-based physician assistants, including four faculty members from local PA programs.

The faculty members will provide training to students in their programs and make training available to other health care professionals. The partnership aims to train an additional 2,000.

The Colts’ initiative to remove the stigma of mental health disorders began in 2020 and has since committed more than $16 million to various community-based initiatives in Indiana to improve mental health.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has been open about his struggles with alcoholism and prescription medication. In 2014, he was suspended for six games by the National Football League and fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated. He acknowledged he was under the influence of painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested near his home in Carmel.

Kalen Jackson, one of his daughters, told the IBJ Podcast in February that the “Kick the Stigma” campaign is helping people realize they can get help.

“People feel it’s their fault—they’re not deserving of help,” said Jackson, who is a vice chair in the Colts organization, overseeing operations and community relations.

The program will be administered by the Physician Associate Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of PAs.

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