College-led Mental Health Project Off to Successful Start

Keuka College secured a $625,000 federal grant to train mental-health facilitators throughout the community.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Six months into an ambitious five-year effort to bolster mental health supports throughout Yates County, the Keuka College-led FLOURISH Network has seen its first wave of instructors complete their specialized training.

“It’s gone very smoothly,” Project Director Dr. Carrie Roberts, Keuka College’s assistant vice president for strategic initiatives, said of the initial steps. “We’ve trained eight new instructors from Keuka College that are ready to train 200 participants throughout the region this year.”

That’s the key to the project, which is being funded by a $625,000 grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: By training instructors who then train additional community members, the project will create an ever-widening net of support for local residents wrestling with mental health challenges, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide. (Community members interested in being trained can contact Dr. Roberts at [email protected].)

The FLOURISH Network – the acronym for Finger Lakes Outreach: Underserved Rural Integrated School/Behavioral Health – couldn’t be more timely, says Dr. Roberts. She cites statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health that estimate nearly one in five adults in the United States live with some form of mental illness.

Through the program, which operates within the College’s new School of Health and Human Services, the College will collaborate with community organizations to provide a variety of free mental health and wellness initiatives including Mental Health First Aid training. This specialized training covers.

• Common signs and symptoms of mental illness

• Common signs and symptoms of substance use

• How to interact with a person in crisis

• How to connect the person with help

• Expanded content on trauma, addiction, and self-care

“Mental Health First Aid training was a great refresher in how to recognize, acknowledge, and then respond to a person who may be experiencing a mental health situation,” said Keuka College Director of College’s Health and Counseling Kristen Bray, who recently completed the training. “I’m excited that all staff and students at Keuka College will have the opportunity in the near future to participate in this training.”

The training will spread far beyond Keuka College. Partners in the FLOURISH Network include the Penn Yan and Prattsburgh school districts, Yates County Social Services, Lakeview Health Services, the Finger Lakes Community Health Center, the Finger Lakes Area Counseling and Recovery Agency, the Yates County Sheriff’s Department, and area police and fire departments. More than 750 members of these and other community agencies will be trained to recognize mental health symptoms and provide referral pathways to health services for county residents.

“Everyone talks about mental health nowadays, but do we really know how to approach it?” asked Matthew Kois, a Keuka College mental health counselor who has also completed the training. “This training can genuinely provide ways of doing so."