CSO expands mental health training sessions in Greater Gardner

GARDNER – A community-based nonprofit public health agency in western Massachusetts is expanding its reach into the central portion of the state – including Greater Gardner.

Clinical and Support Options (CSO), which operates an office at 205 School St., recently received a grant to help address challenges rural residents often face when taking care of their mental health addictions — limited resources , lack of transport and low health literacy. CSO officials said they hope to improve outcomes in rural areas through a new, free training program aimed at raising awareness among community organizations, schools, private businesses and even the general public.

The Rural Awareness and Access Project (RAAP) is overseen by Chase Giroux, the agency’s director of community education.

“I’m already reaching out to organisations, groups and leaders that we think might be interested or could benefit from professional, well-developed training,” Giroux said. “This is training that is often too expensive for nonprofits or schools to offer to their employees. So we hope that our community partners and civic groups will see the value of having free access to it.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant will be used to fund RAAP.

The goal of RAAP is to raise awareness and responsiveness throughout the Northwest region of Massachusetts by providing free, expert-led training courses hosted by CSO clinicians. The project will be implemented over five years with the aim of training at least 1,800 people.

“I am very pleased that we are receiving the grant because this is an area of ​​very high need,” said Heather Powell, Clinical Director for the Gardner office, where some of the training courses will be held. “(This grant) will open up more access to services in the area, and having grown up in Gardner and living in the area, making sure those services are available to people is quite important to me.”

The clinic has seen a strong referral count largely due to the impact of the pandemic shutdown, Powell said.

“Many agencies have very large waiting lists, but at least for us, with our same-day access model, once an individual is admitted, they can access any of our group therapies while they await clinical deployment. if they choose to, and that’s offered to people either in person or through Zoom or a hybrid model,” she said.

The need for increased awareness of and response to mental health issues is becoming increasingly important, especially after the past two years, Giroux said.

“So there’s certainly a need, and we have that resource through the grant, which positions us really well to support and educate our community partners and community members, but what we really need is for people to turn to us and plan a training session because we think it really needs a village,” Giroux said. “I think anyone can say they’ve literally seen an increase in the need for mental health services throughout the pandemic, especially with the isolation for everyone and other stressors at that.”

Training audiences may include: primary care and pediatric practices; hospital staff; veterans organizations; schools and agencies for early childhood education; law enforcement agencies, first responders, courts, etc.; victim support providers and advocates; and other grassroots, community-based organizations and businesses.

“This is one of those ‘it-takes-a-village’ projects,” said Karin Jeffers, President and CEO of CSO. “By empowering local individuals, groups and institutions to be agents of change, RAAP will help ensure that proactive, trauma-informed responses are part of the culture across the western fair.”

These reactions, Jeffers added, could follow serious crises and trauma, or they could follow everyday challenges.

“Sometimes when we think about trauma, we overestimate the criteria for what counts as trauma,” she said. “Indeed, these evidence-based trainings will help break down stigma associated with mental health and provide tools to respond to a variety of circumstances.”

Custom topics to be covered include: adult and adolescent mental health first aid; security and nonviolent crisis intervention; autism spectrum disorders; positive behavior support; trauma-sensitive mindfulness; and building a trauma-informed community, officials said.

Interested organizations (schools, non-profits, government agencies, private companies, etc.) that think their staff or constituency might benefit from behavioral health training related to large-scale trauma response or crisis intervention should email [email protected] Chase Giroux, LMHC, turn. csoinc.org. The Gardner office can be reached at 978-632-9400.

To learn more about CSO’s urgently accessible mental health services in western Massachusetts, visit csoinc.org/help/. To find your nearest CSO location and contact information, visit csoinc.org/locations/.

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