RONKONKOMA, NY, December 3, 2018: The Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW) has been awarded a $375,000 grant from the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for more than 2,000 citizens on Long Island.
The initiative targets people and communities who have involvement with three populations where mental health challenges exist: Veterans, high-risk and gang-vulnerable youth, and people with mental health conditions involved in the criminal justice system.
The three-year program, whose initial ramping-up period began November 1, is called #MHStrong with Sandra Hopkins-Ouedraogo, an experience MHFA certified trainer, serving as project coordinator.
“Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training that shows individuals how to recognize the signs of mental and emotional distress,” said Michael Stoltz, LCSW, Chief Executive Officer of MHAW. “Trainees learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, along with the right strategies for helping someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations.
“Just as CPR helps people assist other individuals having a heart attack, even if they lack medical training,” Stoltz added, “Mental Health First Aid trains people to properly assist someone experiencing a mental health-related crisis.”
Over the course of an eight-hour workshop, trainees receive a basic understanding of various mental health challenges, including substance abuse, their impact on a person’s daily life as well as appropriate pathways for accessing services and support, including peer and family support as well as treatment.
#MHStrong’s Veteran-focused dimension will train staff, volunteers, and Veterans affiliated with the Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island, the Northport VA Medical Center, the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency and local agencies providing support and housing for Veterans
The youth-oriented component will train school personnel and community organization volunteers and leaders working and living in school districts where there are noted high-risk and gang-vulnerable youth and families. It will also include faith-based organizations and personnel of the Suffolk County Office of Minority Health and the Department of Social Services.
The third element will train officers and staff of entities serving people with psychiatric disabilities involved in the criminal justice system, including the Suffolk County Department of Probation, and New York State Parole.
This new project – which expects to conduct its first workshops in February 2019 – builds upon MHAW’s existing community education programming focused on mental health awareness and education. MHAW, which has staff certified to train in both adult and youth Mental Health First Aid, will conduct the workshops at twelve sites around Long Island.
Mr. Stoltz noted that the grant selection process was highly competitive and acknowledged the efforts of the MHAW leadership team – especially Development Director Ruth McDade and C.F.O. Kim Koster – as well as consulting grant developer Dr. Donna Doty, in preparing the successful proposal.
SAMSHA is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.