Preferred Behavioral Health Group and the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County Receive SAMHSA More Chance for Change Grant

SHREWSBURY, NJ – Preferred Behavioral Health Group (PBHG) in collaboration with the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County (MHAMC) is pleased to announce that they have been awarded a grant from the federal Department of Human Services, Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the provision of Mental Health Awareness Training. The project entitled More Chance for Change will provide evidence based mental health awareness trainings to individuals in law enforcement, emergency first responders, veterans, armed services members and their families throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

“I’m thrilled to be able to collaborate with the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County on this project. For too long, first responders, law enforcement and Veterans have been overlooked when it comes to issues relating to the stressors they incur in their lives,” states Preferred Behavioral Health Group, CEO, Mary Pat Angelini.

PBHG and MHAMC are currently working in high risk schools and communities that have been affected by an increase in deaths by suicide as well as drug overdoses, creating a “competent community model” based on the Lifelines best practice training for youth suicide prevention. A Community Readiness Assessment Tool is used to gather information from key stakeholders regarding their capacity to engage in suicide prevention activities, their perceptions of community awareness of mental health resources, and their identification of community needs related to specific mental health problems. Together these agencies will leverage these strong relationships to expand community awareness of mental illness and increase the capacity of police and emergency personnel, armed services members, veterans and their families to identify and appropriately respond to individuals with mental disorders particularly those with serious mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the National Council on Behavioral Health first responders are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty due to high levels of stress and traumatic events. In NJ there were 16 deaths by suicide of police officers and recent data suggest that police are 30% more likely to die by suicide than the general population. By selecting to train law enforcement, emergency responders, armed services members, and veterans in Mental Health First Aid and Crisis Intervention Training, the  result will be two-fold: 1). these specific populations will be able to recognize the early signs and symptoms of mental illness in those with whom they interact therefore, reducing un-necessary arrests and potentially reducing overly aggressive policing; and 2). Using the information to better address critical incident stress management among themselves and their peers in hopes of reducing police and emergency responder suicide rates.

In the counties targeted for training, several mental health issues stand out as targets for intervention. Monmouth County experienced an increase in deaths by suicide and in 2017and reported 69 deaths, a 40% increase over 2016 the highest recorded since reporting began in 2004. “These sobering statistics make us that more grateful for this grant award from SAMHSA and our partnership with Preferred Behavioral Health Group. This allows us to expand our prevention work with the hope of providing education, early intervention, and increased access to treatment to those who may be at high risk for suicide or assist in saving the life of someone they come in contact with,” said Wendy DePedro, MSEd. President & CEO of the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...