Riverhead CAP to Offer Mental Health First Aid Training

Riverhead Community Awareness Program, Inc. has been awarded a federal five-year Mental Health Awareness Training Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, providing $125,000 per year for CAP to coordinate Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid Training to individuals and organizations in Riverhead and the surrounding communities.

Mental Health Awareness Training, known as MHAT, is a skills-based course that gives people the tools to identify, understand and respond to someone who might be struggling with a mental health or substance use challenge, and connect them with appropriate support and resources when necessary. 

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, one in five Americans experiences a mental illness. This includes teens. Although the pandemic has dramatically increased depression and anxiety, many are reluctant to seek help or don’t know where to turn for care.

Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance use problems can be difficult to detect. Friends and family members may find it hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not receive care until it is too late.

“Mental Health First Aid gives the tools for beginning the conversation to move beyond the barriers and stigma associated with mental health,” said Sandra Hopkins-Ouedraogo, CAP’s MHAT Grant coordinator. “Just as CPR helps those without clinical training assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid prepares participants to interact with a person experiencing a mental health crisis.”

CAP has partnered with Family Service League, Riverhead Central School District, Southampton Youth Bureau, and the New York National Guard to train instructors in both Youth and Adult MHFA. Those instructors will then provide MHFA training to individuals and organizations at no cost. Family Service League’s Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic in Riverhead is the community partner for mental health referrals.

The first Adult MHFA training will be at the Riverhead Police Department at the end of March.

“MHFA training will be another valuable tool to help us better serve the Riverhead community,” said police chief David Hegermiller. 

Youth MHFA is specialized for adults that work with youth in any capacity. Training for Riverhead Central School District staff will take place during Superintendent Conference Days. 

“The district is very excited about this partnership,” said Christine Tona, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “We recognize that many students are in need of support, and this strengthens the other initiatives that the district is implementing.”

In his recent State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden recognized the unprecedented mental health crisis that the country is facing. He stated that youth have been particularly impacted as losses from Covid and disruptions in routines and relationships have led to increased social isolation, anxiety, and learning loss. 

CAP and its partners will also be providing specialized MHFA training modules for veterans, public safety, fire/EMS, and individuals or organizations that work with older adults. Training is available in person/on site, virtually, or in a blended course.

For more information, or to schedule a training, contact Sandra Hopkins-Ouedraogo at 631.727.3722, ext. 104, or Sandra.Hopkins-Ouedraogo@RiverheadCAP.org.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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