Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,075,000)
Purpose of the Project: The project seeks to increase regional capacity for training public service employees to recognize and respond to individuals with mental health and substance use issues in order to help address these burgeoning crises in central Massachusetts. Professionals working in public safety are increasingly called upon to serve and interact with people in acute emotional and psychological distress. However, across the country, the curricula training for public safety professionals does not adequately equip them to respond to the needs of people with mental health issues. This project addresses that gap by providing public service employees with opportunities to learn the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum.
Primary Activities: The project will create an Institute for Public Safety, which will facilitate Train-the-Trainer workshops focused on the MHFA curriculum. The Institute will recruit key individuals, such as professional development liaisons, certify them in the MHFA program, and prepare them as instructors capable of training their colleagues in the MHFA program. These participants will return to their units where they will certify other workers in the MHFA program and promote greater awareness about mental health among their colleagues and co-workers. In addition, the Institute will provide ongoing support to these trainers through MHFA mentors who will periodically check in with each trainer to provide ongoing advice and support. The Institute will also work to disseminate current research and best practices to the network of mental health trainers that is created through these efforts.
Expected Outcomes: The Institute will train 75 public safety professionals as instructors in Mental Health First Aid. These instructors in turn will successfully certify 1,600 public safety professionals across the law enforcement, fire service, paramedic/EMT, probation, and corrections sectors. The Institute will also offer MHFA training to undergraduate and graduate students at Anna Maria College and in particular, to students who are preparing for careers in public safety. The Institute will also widely disseminate research and materials about mental wellness to tthe public safety community.
The Service Area: The most immediate area to be served is the City of Worcester and Worcester County, a predominately rural area in central Massachusetts. The project will also recruit public safety professionals throughout Massachusetts.
Intended Beneficiaries: The broader public is the intended beneficiary, as everyone will benefit from public safety professionals trained to recognize and support individuals experiencing a mental health