The PA Foundation Board of Trustees identified mental health as a priority focus area in 2018. To put this priority into action, the PA Foundation is developing and implementing mental health-focused programmatic opportunities for PAs interested in leading mental health outreach in their communities.
Mental Health Outreach Fellowship
The PA Foundation launched the inaugural Mental Health Outreach Fellowship in 2018 as the first phase of its mental health outreach efforts. The fellowship is designed to connect PAs’ clinical expertise and compassion to community need with a specific emphasis on mental health. Tapping into the established and growing community outreach program developed by the National Council for Behavioral Health, the fellowship equipped a pilot cohort of 16 PAs to conduct outreach in their communities as trainers using the validated Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum.
The goal of the MHFA program is to improve the mental health knowledge and skills of the U.S. public in an effort to prepare individuals to recognize and respond to signs of early-stage mental illness and mental health crisis, offer and provide initial help, and guide a person toward appropriate professional support. This program may be likened to CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), a familiar community health education training which has prepared laypeople to respond to cardiac emergencies for several generations.
The first cohort of PA Foundation Mental Health Outreach Fellows participated in a three-day Mental Health First Aid instructor training in March 2018 and became certified to teach the 8-hour course in their communities. Per the fellowship requirements, they were tasked with conducting community outreach and training to a minimum of 100 people over the course of the fellowship year.
2019 Program Expansion – Community College Focus
Mental health will remain a priority focus area for the Foundation in 2019. Capitalizing on the training experience and expertise of our Fellows cohort, we will expand our initiative within a specific training environment with a proven need for mental health outreach: community college campuses.
This phase of our program will connect Fellows with local community colleges and equip them with resources to lead a minimum of two Mental Health First Aid training sessions for college faculty and staff. To date, 11 community colleges in eight states have signed up to participate in the training program. In addition to providing MHFA training, we will connect the community colleges with local mental healthcare providers for treatment referrals as needed.
The PA Foundation has secured grant funding from multiple sources to support this initiative. Thank you to Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., AAPA, and PAEA for their support.