Health Center News

NACHC Launches Mental Health First Aid Programs with Americares

NACHC recently partnered with Americares to increase access to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for health center employees across the country. The MHFA initiative could not come at a more critical time for health centers. Patient visits for behavioral health services, including mental health and substance use disorders, have grown by 83% since 2010. The initiative aims to boost understanding of mental health and substance use issues and make more resources available. To this end, two programs have debuted and awardees will begin training soon.

The first program is for two MHFA instructor scholarships; the selected individuals will receive a scholarship to complete a five-day in-person training to become certified instructors. The scholarship includes hotel and meal costs for the five-day training, travel to/from the training site, and the cost of the training itself. The newly-certified instructors will be required to deliver at least three eight-hour MHFA course trainings each year to maintain their certification. The 2019 awardees are Seth Allard of American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit, MI, and Lisa Johnson of Chiricahua Community Health Services in Sierra Vista, AZ.

The second program is for one Primary Care Association (PCA) or Health Center Controlled Network (HCCN) to host at least one 8-hour MHFA training course. The 25-35 participants in each training will receive a 3-year certificate as Mental Health First Aiders in their own communities, trained to recognize signs and symptoms of mental distress and intervene appropriately. This program covers the cost of the trainer’s travel to the site, the training site, materials such as MHFA manuals, and food for participants. The 2019 award was granted to the North Carolina Community Health Center Association.

Each program requires applicants to be NACHC Organizational Members, have organizational support for MHFA, and committed to either delivering or facilitating and attending MHFA trainings. All applicants were asked to submit a statement of need and a training plan, and were evaluated according to the Suicide Prevalence by State from the CDC. Both competitions had a robust response of strong applicants from 12 states and 16 organizations.

Here’s what the awardees had to say:

“I am very thankful to the National Association of Community Health Centers for the opportunity to become a Mental Health First Aid instructor. Teaching and group learning is one of the most powerful and direct ways that we can have an impact our community’s beliefs and attitudes toward mental health. Mental Health First Aid, as well as many other teaching and awareness platforms, will become one of the most important components of the Zero Suicide program currently being implemented at American Indian Health and Family Services in Detroit, serving an essential role for years to come. Chi Miigwech! (Thank you!)” – Seth Allard, Program Manager, Zero Suicide American Indian Health and Family Services Detroit

“I believe in excellent care for ALL people.  I am honored to contribute my skills and experience to educate Cochise County on mental health concerns facing us all, while strengthening our community to recognize, understand, and support one another dealing with mental health issues.” –Lisa Johnson, MSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Integrated Behavioral Health Services, Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc.

“Poverty, stress, and despair exacerbate the mental health needs in the communities we serve. We are thrilled to be participating in this important program to extend mental health first aid skills throughout our health center teams.” – E. Benjamin Money, Jr., MPH, President and CEO, North Carolina Community Health Center Association


Both programs will be accepting applicants again at the end of 2019 for MHFA training in 2020. For more information, contact