Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Service (Alpert JFS) is taking the lead in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), destigmatizing mental illness, and working to make mental health education as common as CPR training! The program is appropriate for everyone who has an interest in making a positive contribution to our community, but is particularly suited to lawyers. A demanding work schedule and stressful environment often result in work-life challenges. Many lawyers struggle with alcohol consumption, anxiety and depression. MHFA training provides the tools necessary to approach someone struggling with mental health issues, which can benefit colleagues and staff, clients, friends and family members.
The nationally renowned evidence-based training course teaches participants the skills to help someone developing a mental health problem, or experiencing a mental health crisis. It came to our community six years ago, through the efforts of Alpert JFS Clinical Director Elaine Rotenberg, Ph. D. and Director of Community Outreach/Mental Health First Aid Cindy Wides. Dr. Rotenberg heard about Mental Health First Aid at an out-of-state conference, and returned to Palm Beach County to research its presence in our community. At the time, there were just three instructors certified to teach. She assembled a group of funders to form a Coalition for Palm Beach County, introducing the concept to the group and raising funds to hire Wides. Together, they educated the community about the benefits of training. They also coordinated the efforts of four non-profit organizations to each allow a staff member to be trained nationally in order to teach MHFA locally.
The grassroots Palm Beach County Coalition Mental Health First Aid Coalition has experienced impressive growth since 2015; it now includes 16 non-profit agencies, the School District of Palm Beach County, and more than 80 nationally certified instructors. To date, more than 6,400 people received training to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and/or substance use disorders.