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Wheeler has received a five-year, $625,000 federal Mental Health Awareness Training Emergency Services (MHAT-ES) grant to deliver Mental Health First Aid training to emergency services and other frontline personnel across Connecticut.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as one of 145 organizations nationwide, the purpose of the grant is to train emergency and other frontline professionals to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges; establish community linkages for referrals to care; train emergency services personnel, law enforcement, fire department personnel, veterans, and others, to identify individuals with a mental disorder and employ crisis de-escalation techniques; and educate individuals about available community resources.

The Wheeler MHAT-ES program will provide local and state police, fire professionals, Department of Correction staff, college campus security, and student conduct personnel and others across Connecticut, with strategies and skills to support individuals who exhibit signs and symptoms of mental health challenges or who are experiencing a mental health crisis. Wheeler’s MHAT-ES program will conduct more than 150 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainings, with tailored curriculums for specific audiences, for more than 3,000 emergency services professionals, working in partnership with organizations, such the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, and the Connecticut Departments of Correction and Administrative Services.

The goals of this program are to increase: 1) the number of emergency services professionals who are trained in MHFA, 2) the ability of emergency services professionals to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of mental disorders when responding to calls in the community and when they are exhibited by other emergency services staff, and 3) the number of individuals referred for behavioral health and support.

“The intended recipients of this training frequently encounter people who may have mental health concerns or who may be experiencing a mental health crisis, and these professionals may not be trained in mental health awareness or techniques to de-escalate mental health crises,” said Judith Stonger, MA, CPS, vice president, Wheeler’s Prevention, Wellness and Recovery. “We’ve seen a rise in mental health and substance use concerns since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and this training and additional supports for individuals and families fill a need at an especially critical time.”

Since 2010, Wheeler’s Prevention, Wellness and Recovery Team, including staff from Connecticut Clearinghouse, have delivered more than 340 Mental Health First Aid Trainings and certified over 5,770 individuals across Connecticut through support from SAMHSA, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division, and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

About Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
Mental Health First Aid provides participants with skills to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. In the United States, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is overseen by the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Missouri Department of Mental Health, and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which collectively provide instructors, training, and technical support for this course.

About Wheeler’s Connecticut Center for Prevention, Wellness and Recovery
Wheeler’s Connecticut Center for Prevention, Wellness and Recovery offers comprehensive resources, programs, and trainings for individuals, families, and communities.

The cornerstone of the Connecticut Center for Prevention, Wellness and Recovery, Connecticut Clearinghouse, is the state’s premier library and resource center for information on substance use and mental health disorders, prevention and health promotion, treatment and recovery, wellness and related topics, such as Mental Health First Aid.

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