HHS Employees Take Mental Health First Aid Training

December 27, 2021

The HHSC Mental Health First Aid program has been receiving more interest from HHS employees who want to learn how to help others who might be having a mental health crisis.  

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training aims to decrease stigma, increase awareness and provide resources.

Since 2013, HHSC has offered funding to local mental and behavioral health authorities across the state to provide the training to their staff, as well as to educators, veterans and their families, and community members. HHSC also offers the training to its employees.

At the end of fiscal year 2021, more than 124,000 people had completed the training, said Carrie Hoffman, MHFA team lead with the HHSC Office of Mental Health Coordination.

The trainings have become so popular that the program now has a waitlist for HHS employees, added Jondell LaFont-Garcia, a program specialist with the MHFA program. LaFont-Garcia, Hoffman and about 50 certified state agency employees conduct the trainings for HHS and other state agencies.  

With six training classes enrolling up to 20 participants each, the program expects to have trained 120 HHS employees from October 2021 through January 2022.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing owns the curriculum and trains instructors.

“It’s been a really great experience,” LaFont-Garcia said. “The National Council for Mental Wellbeing has done a great job of making it interactive.”

Local authorities began offering the trainings virtually last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to allow more people to enroll who were unable to participate in person. Participants are required to complete a two-hour self-paced online course before taking the daylong instructor-led virtual training.

Recently, managers and directors within the HHSC Chief Financial Officer division took the training to better help their employees and others.

Derrick Payton, fund management director, said the information provided at the training was “extremely helpful and necessary.”

“The instructors were well-versed, professional and passionate about ensuring that we understood how mental health is very serious and can impact anyone,” Payton said.

Eugene Ble, contract finance support director, said the training taught him that mental illness is more prevalent than he thought and that it is important to keep up with self-care practices to help others with mental health issues.

“This is one of the best trainings I’ve ever taken,” Ble said. “Beyond getting an MHFA certificate, which is valid for three years, this training will not only give HHS employees the tools to recognize someone with a mental health situation or crisis but will also empower them with great techniques on how to provide needed assistance.” 

Visit the local mental/behavioral health authority webpage to find the authority in your area and ask about taking a class.