Public Safety Professionals Trained in Mental Health First Aid through New Federal Grant

Oct 01, 2018

A new three-year, $375,000 federal grant will support Mental Health First Aid trainings for Connecticut public safety professionals.

Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, working with a host of organizations including the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, will offer the eight-hour trainings to more than 1,700 police, fire, first responders and college campus security and student conduct professionals. The grant is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“First responders are often a first point of contact for, and have a very high incidence of contact with, individuals who may be experiencing significant mental health challenges,” said Cathy Sisco, MPA, CPS, Wheeler’s associate director of prevention, wellness and recovery.  “We are confident that these trainings will increase their mental health literacy and also teach them a practical five-step Mental Health First Aid Action Plan. Our training initiative will help keep our communities safer, support our public safety personnel and help ensure that individuals get the appropriate support they need.”

Sisco added that due to the uncertainty and high levels of stress associated with their work, law enforcement and other public safety personnel have an increased risk of experiencing mental health challenges in their own lifetime, compared to the general public.  This training focuses on these experiences and needs and is a valuable resource that can make a difference in the lives of public safety professionals, their peers, their families and the communities they serve.

Training participants will learn signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance use disorders including a component on opioid overdose, the skills to provide support to someone who is unwell, and tactics to de-escalate a person experiencing crisis. The program also focuses on early intervention, diversion and referral to clinical support. Finally, woven throughout the course is a focus on workplace wellness to assist those in public safety roles to better be able to take care of each other and their own families.

The goals of the program are to increase the number of public safety professionals who are trained in Mental Health First Aid; the ability of public safety professionals to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health challenges when responding to calls in the community and when they are exhibited by other public safety staff; and increase the number of individuals referred for behavioral health and support services made by public safety professionals.

About Wheeler
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018, Wheeler provides comprehensive solutions that address complex health issues, providing individuals, families and communities with accessible, innovative care that encourages recovery, health and growth at all stages of life.  Our integrated approach to primary and behavioral health, education and recovery creates measurable results, positive outcomes and hopeful tomorrows for more than 30,000 individuals across Connecticut each year. Learn more: