Nonprofit Riverhead will focus $625B grant on improving youth and adult mental health
A Riverhead nonprofit will use a five-year, $625,000 federal grant recently awarded to the group to help train individuals and organizations in the city and surrounding East End communities on how to identify and understand the signs of mental illness and addiction in youth and adults.
Riverhead Community Awareness Program Inc., or Riverhead CAP, received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services – to coordinate mental health first aid for adults and youth . Trainees learn to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and addiction.
Sandra Hopkins-Ouedraogo, coordinator of the nonprofit’s mental health awareness and training grants, told Newsday that the nonprofit applied for the funding after seeing the impact on the mental health of the COVID-19 pandemic. A December 2020 report from the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel cited data from the Suffolk County Police Department showing that non-fatal overdoses and Narcan savings for individuals increased from 2019 to 2020, the report adds. .
“There’s so much stigma around talking about mental health,” Hopkins-Ouedraogo said. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about it. But especially with the impact the pandemic has had on everyone, it’s a good tool to notice those signs and symptoms and to intervene and help.
Riverhead CAP and its partners will provide specialized services Mental Health First Aid Training Modules for veterans, public safety, fire/EMS personnel, and individuals or organizations who work with seniors. Training is available in-person/on-site, virtually or as part of a blended course.
The grant will provide $125,000 per year for Riverhead CAP to coordinate adult and youth mental health first aid training for individuals and organizations in Riverhead and surrounding communities.
Certified trainers from various organizations will teach trainees a five step action plan: assessment of the risk of suicide or harm; listen without judging; reassure and inform; encourage appropriate professional help, and; encourage self-help and other support strategies. Those trained would also learn to use these skills outside of crisis situations. The training would take 8 hours, according to Riverhead CAP officials.
The nonprofit will partner with local schools and organizations such as the Family Service League, Riverhead Central School District, Southampton Youth Bureau and New York National Guard to train mental health first aid instructors . These instructors will then offer this training to individuals and organizations at no cost over the next five years.
“It’s about educating as many people about mental health first aid and being able to help others as they learn,” Hopkins-Ouedraogo said.
The first adult training session will take place at the Riverhead Police Department at the end of March.
« PSSM [mental health first aid] the training will be another valuable tool to help us better serve the Riverhead community,” said Chief Constable David Hegermiller.
Christine Tona, the school district’s assistant superintendent, said the district is “very excited about this partnership.”
“We recognize that many students need support,” Tona said, “and this reinforces other initiatives the district is implementing.”
Patricia Hartley-Ferrandino, director of clinical operations at the Family Service League, said at least two of her staff will take the training, including one Spanish-speaking staff member.
“Mental health first aid training is really for everyone to identify a warning signal in another person and not just ignore it,” Hartley-Ferrandino said. “It teaches you to identify and ask a question so you can understand what’s going on with that person and respond by saying how people need help and where it can be offered.”