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WITC hosts certification training for mental health first aid

Pictured are the members of the 2018 Mental Health First Aid Certification Training class hosted by WITC. Photo courtesy of WITC-New Richmond

"Intense but incredible experience" and "amazing," were comments heard from exiting participants of the area's first Mental Health First Aid Certification Training held at WITC.

People face many challenges in accessing care for mental and emotional problems. One in five Americans will experience a mental illness in their lifetime and many more will experience an addiction. To create and maintain healthy communities and provide a more strategic framework for local health improvement activities, Healthier Together - Pierce & St. Croix Counties organized a free, five-day Mental Health First Aid Certification training for 30 community members. Support from funders who recognized the need covered the $36,200 fee.

United Way St. Croix Valley Executive Director Ann Searles credits St Croix County Chief Medical Examiner Patty Schachtner, working with Healthier Together, in making the training a reality.

"Patty brought the leadership, passion and commitment and shared the vision with other community groups to accomplish bringing it to the St. Croix Valley—the first in our area," said Searle.

The participants are instrumental in spreading the Mental Health First Aid training in Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties. They will offer eight hours of training for others so they can identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders before problems become crises by offering support and linking professional resources. Hospitals, churches, schools and businesses are encouraged to receive training for their employees as well as public safety personnel.

"I was lucky enough to get this training and really believe that we as community members need to be a part of the solution when it comes to reducing the stigma associated with mental health," Schachtner said. "Mental health touches all of us. We need to do our part to help those who need it."

United Way-St. Croix Valley will be offering public training with the United Way Foundation covering all but $10 of the cost to make it widely available. The goal is to offer a training session in Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties every month. Professionals can receive the training at WITC for their continuing education units.

"This is amazing in the sense that it rallies community members to help other community members with informal support instead of having the help come only from a professional level," said participant Kristin Newton, who is a Behavioral Health Emergency Services Social Worker for St. Croix County.

Community Impact Director of the United Way St. Croix Valley, Tom Holland, is excited to be part of an important movement to bring education, care and awareness to the community about the signs and symptoms of mental illness that affect so many in our communities.

"We can finally not only reduce and eliminate the stigma around mental illness, but also train anyone to provide help and support for those that are suffering, just as we do for those suffering from other medical issues such as heart attack or fractured limbs," Holland said.

Mental health and substance use issues have wide-reaching effects on people's education, employment, physical health, and relationships, which ripple into the communities they live in. This educational experience will build a better St. Croix Valley.

Financial support for the certification training came from Allina Health, Health Partners, Hudson-YMCA, NAMI Wisconsin, St. Croix County, the Suicide Prevention Council through the St. Croix Valley Foundation, United Way - St. Croix Valley, Western Wisconsin Health and WITC. For more information or to register for the eight-hour Mental First Aid Training, contact United Way St. Croix Valley at 715-377-0203 or visit Find community resources at