CAP Will Provide Mental Health First Aid Training


Riverhead CAP has been awarded a Federal 5-year Mental Health Awareness Training (MHAT) grant from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The grant will provide $125,000 per year for CAP to coordinate Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. This training gives people the tools to identify, understand and respond to someone who might be struggling with a mental health or substance use challenge. They can then connect them with appropriate support and resources when necessary.

“We are excited about this new opportunity,” said Felicia Scocozza, CAP’s executive director. “Our goal is to provide this training to any organization or individual in the community that wants it.”

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.

providing valuable tools

“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 NY 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 Behavioral Health Clinic in Riverhead is the community partner for mental health referrals.

The first Adult Mental Health First Aid training took place at the Riverhead Police Department in March. “MHFA training is another valuable tool to help us better serve the Riverhead community,” said police chief David Hegermiller.

Expanding school and community partnerships

Youth MHFA is a specialized course 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. This strengthens the other initiatives that the district is implementing.”

In his 2022 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. This is due to losses from COVID and disruptions in routines and relationships have led to increased social isolation, anxiety, and learning loss.

In addition, a new CDC report found that in 2021 more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-four percent reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

Specialized modules

CAP and its partners will also provide specialized Mental Health First Aid training modules. These are 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