Be a Mental Health “First Responder”


A Mental Health First Aid training class at the Westbury School District.  (Photo Credit: Barry Sloan, Newsday)

On March 19, 2016, Newsday‘s Laura Figueroa wrote a great story about the impact of Mental Health First Aid training for first responders.  MHAW trainers have been providing Mental Health First Aid certified courses to teachers, care managers, youth and forensic workers, health and hospital “front line” staff, librarians, and more who have first-contact situations with people who may be experiencing mental and emotional distress.

As noted on its website,, Mental Health First Aid teaches participants:

  • The signs of addictions and mental illnesses
  • A 5-step action plan to assess a situation and help
  • The impact of mental and substance use disorders
  • Local resources and where to turn for help

Like its physical health First Aid counterpart, Mental Health First Aid is for everyone: non-professionals and professionals alike. It is a safety-driven process but, along the way – as participants have noted – it takes the stigma and tension out of these encounters.

The feedback has been phenomenal from attendees. MHAW and our partners at Nassau MHA are available wherever an audience of up to 30 can convene. Unfortunately, until more grant funding is available, there is a modest fee (just as there is for Certified First Aid courses), but that shouldn’t get in the way.

Join the movement. Contact Alexis Rodgers, Coordinator for Community Outreach & Education, at or call 631-471-7242 x1315 to find out more, get information about upcoming training opportunities, or to schedule a course with your organization or company.

Michael Stoltz has been at the agency’s leadership helm since 1990, first as Executive Director of the predecessor organization, Clubhouse of Suffolk, and since July 2014, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW). MHAW is the result of the merger of Clubhouse with Suffolk County United Veterans and the Mental Health Association in Suffolk County.                                                                                                                                             Under Michael’s stewardship, the agency has grown to one with an $10 million annual operating budget, 150 employees, servicing more than 3,000 people each year through its Ronkonkoma, Riverhead, and Yaphank facilities. A social worker by training, Michael received his MSW in 1982 from Adelphi University, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Welfare Policy and Human Service Management. He served as a Program Supervisor, developing and implementing the Suffolk County Intensive Case Management Program, as well as positions in management and direct service at several Long Island outpatient clinics.

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Association for Mental Health and Wellness

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