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Riverhead CAP awarded multi-year grant to boost mental health awareness training

Riverhead Community Awareness Program will receive a multi-year grant to provide mental health awareness training. Riverhead CAP was the only Long Island organization to be awarded the grant, according to Sandra Hopkins-Ouedraogo, the MHAT coordinator and community prevention specialist at Riverhead CAP.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal organization considered a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide $125,000 per year for five years to Riverhead CAP to coordinate adult and youth mental health first aid training (MHFAT), according to a press release.

“The purpose for applying for the grant was to empower the coalition organizations to be able to have mental health first aid instructors within their organizations, that would be able to also teach the mental health first aid training,” Ms. Hopkins-Ouedraogo said. Riverhead CAP will facilitate the training among a coalition of local organizations.

She said that by the end of the month, they are planning to have nine instructors that can teach mental health first aid under both the adult and youth modules.

The modules would be “teaching people skills to be able to recognize signs and symptoms of someone that may be in their family, [someone] that they may work with, who may be developing a mental health challenge, or substance use disorder challenge,” Ms. Hopkins-Ouedraogo said.

The difference between the adult and youth modules is that the youth modules would teach adults to recognize signs in the youth that might be struggling, Ms. Hopkins-Ouedraogo said.

The modules would also teach participants how to help those suffering from a mental health or substance abuse issue, she said. 

“Then how do we help them after noticing the signs and symptoms — to be able to approach and speak to them in a way that it shows that you care, and that you want to help, and then connecting them to the appropriate professional help,” she said.

Riverhead CAP 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, according to a press release.

While the trainings aren’t open to the public yet, Riverhead CAP hopes to offer training by next fall, according to Ms. Hopkins-Ouedraogo.

“The concentration is on the coalition organizations, training the staff,” she said. “Then we’re hoping by within the second year of the grant, to be able to open it up and to outreach to other organizations and community members to be able to have the training.”

The first adult MHFA training will be at the Riverhead Police Department on March 30, teaching the Public Safety/Law Enforcement module, Ms. Hopkins-Ouedraogo said.

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

There will also be training for Riverhead Central School District staff that will take place during Superintendent Conference Days.

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

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

For more information or to schedule a training, contact Sandra Hopkins-Ouedraogo at 631-727-3722, ext. 104, or [email protected].