Mental Health First Aid Now Being Offered In Carbon and Stillwater Counties

By Mary Cameron

Initially, all I’d ever known about Mental Health First Aid was that everyone I’d ever talked to that had taken it, had loved it. Natasha Sailer, Stillwater County Public Health Nurse emailed me the 6 page application and a flyer that read, “What to Expect at a Mental Health First Aid Instructor Training.” At the top of the MHFA flyer, in bold print, was “Certification is not guaranteed for all Instructor candidates.” The MHFA Train-the-Trainer was offered statewide and the training was paid for by the Montana Hospital Association, and class size was limited to 30 students. I doubted that I would be accepted into the training, but after talking to my Regional TA leader about how it fit into my logic models and requested and received approval from BHDD, I submitted the application. To be honest, I was doubtful that I would make the cut. Regardless of my self-doubt, I was accepted into the week long training. 

During the first hour of day one, I knew that being a Mental Health First Aid Instructor was what I was meant to be. The instructors, Lee Ann and Gina, were experienced, friendly and approachable. The curriculum is evidence-based and proven to improve people’s mental health, increase understanding of mental health and substance use issues, connect people with care and, my personal favorite, reduce stigma.  The training included 4 full days of classroom work, a written exam (completed outside of training hours), and conducting a 30 minute assigned portion of the course for the group, of which we were expected to prepare for, in one evening. It was so interesting and worthwhile! After passing the Mental Health First Aid instructor course, we had an additional 16 hours of video training to complete from the MHFA instructor website. I am very appreciative of that additional video training! The video training helped me to improve my presentation style, timing and activity selections. I will use this instruction not only with MHFA, but also when teaching RASS classes and Prime for Life.  

In December 2019, the MT DPHHS was accepting proposals for Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) mini-grants. I submitted a proposal and it was accepted. The OD2A grant will cover the cost for conducting four Mental Health First Aid classes in Carbon County and Stillwater County.  My thought behind this was that we would get more people to participate in the 8 hour course if it were free to participants. The OD2A grant funds will cover promotion, supplies, venues, etc. In-kind support includes additional promotion on the county-specific Prevention websites and social media pages which are part of Carbon and Stillwater county’s Prevention activities budget and my instructor wages will be covered by the Prevention Block Grant. Participant workbooks and the instructor’s travel will be covered by the Montana Hospital Association.  Because of the OD2A Grant, Block Grant and MT Hospital Association collaboration, there will be four Mental Health First Aid trainings offered in Carbon County and Stillwater County at no charge to participants. The first MHFA training is scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 29, 2020, in Red Lodge. 

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