United Way invests in Mental Health First Aid training for frontline volunteers

Jackie Bogner, left, a Visiting Nurses Association volunteer, and Diane Mielke, a CASA volunteer, are members of this month's Mental Health First Aid class at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

Jackie Bogner, left, a Visiting Nurses Association volunteer, and Diane Mielke, a CASA volunteer, are members of this month's Mental Health First Aid class at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. by Jeff Burkhead

By Micki Chestnut, director of communications for United Way of Douglas County

As advocates for children who are in protective custody, CASA volunteers are on the frontlines working with individuals who are dealing with a variety of mental health issues. Diana Frederick, executive director of Douglas County CASA, wanted to make sure her CASA volunteers had the training they needed to be better prepared to deal with a variety of challenging situations.

So when the United Way of Douglas County offered to pay the ways for 20 volunteers from its community partners to attend the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center’s Mental Health First Aid program, Frederick jumped at the chance.

Throughout the year, volunteers from CASA, Salvation Army, the Willow Domestic Violence Center, GaDuGi SafeCenter, Penn House, Visiting Nurses Association, Red Cross and Health Care Access Clinic will participate in this 8-hour training course designed to give members of the public key skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Our staff participated in the Mental Health First Aid training and thought it was very valuable, and we definitely wanted our volunteers to participate, but there was the budgetary concern. So it was a dream come true when the United Way facilitated the opportunity for some of our volunteers to attend the training and not pay for it,” Frederick said.

The $30 class fee was covered by funds awarded to the United Way by the Kansas Volunteer Commission, said Lori Johns, director of volunteer engagement for the United Way. “We want these volunteers to say engaged, and it’s rare we can offer them something like this,” Johns said.

“This is a wonderful training opportunity for our community, and it’s especially applicable for a CASA volunteer and others working with diverse individuals,” Frederick said. “In social service, we encounter a variety of people with mental health issues, so it’s important to be prepared with good information.”

For information about Mental Health First Aid and upcoming classes, visit bertnash.org.

Willow Domestic Violence Center volunteers Dianne Mahoney and Peter Ashlock visit before a Mental Health First Aid class.

Willow Domestic Violence Center volunteers Dianne Mahoney and Peter Ashlock visit before a Mental Health First Aid class. by Jeff Burkhead

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