ARGYLE – Mental health first aid training is the focus of a three-year $374,591 grant over that Lutheran Services Florida Health Systems CEO Christine Cauffield said will teach professionals how to identify signs and symptoms for veterans, school staff and caseworkers.
LSF Health Systems is the second largest of the state’s seven agencies that partner with community agencies on mental health services and programs, especially to serve indigent and uninsured residents.
“We want to make sure the folks we train are aware of the signs or symptoms and know how to properly intervene,” Cauffield said. “We want to be sure we can identify these individuals and get them to the proper resources in the community.”
The organization will partner with Clay Behavioral Health Center, Clay County Veterans Services and Clay County Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities Network to provide the training.
“We appreciate services and people who work with folks with behavioral health issues and in the community,” said Irene Toto, Clay Behavioral Health CEO. “We’re all for that.”
Cauffield said for school staff, LSF wanted to focus on descalation techniques. For case managers, the emphasis is the high-fidelity wrap-around model, used to intervene and provide services for youth with mental health disorders.
“So, if [staff does] encounter a student that is having problems, they know how to intervene and hopefully ameliorate the crisis,” Cauffield said.
Clay County is home to more than 30,000 veterans, active and retired, according to the county.
Retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Lavoski Munford, an Argyle resident, was mostly stationed in Jacksonville, from 1986-2016 as an aviation ordnanceman.
Munford, 51, said his niece works for LSF Health Systems and said the need for improved veterans’ services is critical.
“Veterans tend to want to talk to other veterans first,” Munford said. “If there’s veterans in the community, who are trained to identify issues they’ve been having or just sit down and talk with them about what’s going on and point them in the right direction.”
During a helicopter training exercise in May 2007, an aircraft clipped a power line and killed five in Munford’s squadron. He said he saw some of the flight crew in the gym before the flight and briefed them before they took off.
“That’s what stuck with me the most, even till today. It was a trying time for the squadron. We hadn’t been out there [Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada] very long,” Munford said. “We had to mourn really quick and get back in the seat. You’ve got to put things behind you and say, ‘We’ve got to move on.’ That’s what we did. We set that aside and we continued with the mission.”
Munford didn’t confide his feelings to someone about the crash until 2016 and sought professional help from the Veterans Administration. He urges veterans to talk about the problems they may be coping with.
“It’s a daily struggle, but it gets better,” Munford said. “I guess I have a whole lot of what you say, tools in my toolbox, to deal with life’s issues.”
Munford also spent a nine-month tour in Afghanistan where he served as a historian, and got to interview service members about their experiences
“That was an eye opener for me because I got to talk to the soldiers,” Munford said. “If the person wasn’t from your area or where you’re from, then you don’t really know, but we had people dying over there almost every single day and a lot of people don’t know that. It was hard, being in the Navy, because you don’t see death and destruction to that level.”
Cauffield said LSF Health Systems hopes to train 150 people in the three-year period of the grant. She said the program is expected to start in a few weeks.