Care Design NY Care Managers Receive
Mental Health First Aid National Certification

Albany, NY - Care Design NY, a Care Coordination Organization/Health Home (CCO/HH) for individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities (IDD) is providing a nationally recognized evidence-based training program, Mental Health First Aid certification program. 

The Mental Health First Aid public education program was developed by the National Council of Mental Wellbeing to teach course participants how to identify, understand, and respond to mental health and substance use disorder warning signs and risk factors in adults. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older -- about 1 in 4 adults -- suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder each year. Furthermore, it is estimated that 30-40% of all persons with IDD has a psychiatric disorder compared to 27% of the general population.

When asked about the significance of offering Mental Health First Aid Training, Melissa Ackernecht, Care Design NY Behavioral Support Specialist stated, “At a time when we are encountering a significant increase in mental health symptoms presentation, largely in part due to COVID-19 and other societal factors, the empowerment provided to Care Managers through the Mental Health First Aid curriculum is invaluable. The program opens a door by bringing awareness of often overlooked symptoms and underlying mental health issues, as well as serving to break down the barriers that one can encounter with respect to engaging in discussion and coordinating support.” 

Through role-playing and simulations, the six and a half hour, interactive programs provides Care Design NY Care Managers with skills for supporting individuals with a mental health and/or substance use problem by recognizing symptoms of mental health problems, how to offer and provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate treatments and other support assistance.  It helped to remove the fear and hesitation associated with starting conversations on mental health and substance use problems, thus decreasing the stigma surrounding psychiatric diagnoses. The timely identification of when someone is not at their baseline, allows the Care Manager to provide the support needed when someone is experiencing behavioral health or mental challenges, and the steps to take to maximize the opportunities that they will get the help needed. 

On Wednesday, February 15, a training was conducted and Scott Kohn, Training and Development Manager, stated, “Mental Health First Aid aims to teach our workforce how to identify signs and symptoms, how to respond in a Mental Health Emergency, and offer support to someone who appears to be in emotional distress. It's an incredible honor to facilitate this 6.5 hour training to our workforce and I'm so thankful to our executive leadership team for rolling out this initiative and providing a much needed resource to our employees. Mental Health is real, and we can all do our part to be 'stigma stompers' and understand that recovery is not only possible, but probable."

The care management team trainees were very positive on what they learned, and the role plays and activities provided great information and were very relatable, according to one care manager supervisor. She stated, “The person-first language in the training will help us reduce the stigma that prevents people from seeking help as we focus on the individual and not their diagnosis.”

Care Managers come from different experiences and backgrounds and may or may not have experience with people with mental health issues or people experiencing a crisis. The training provided them with an overview of different conditions and helped them identify and understand those conditions and how to address different situations that may come up in a supportive and professional way.

While Care Managers do not diagnose or treat mental health issues, they can provide a valuable proactive role in supporting individuals to get the care they need before it becomes a crisis.  A Care Manager upon completion of the training stated, “Knowing the signs to look for and having the new skills to develop a plan of action to help them get the support they need.”



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