The Neighborhood Healers: Training Black Community First Responders in Mental Health First Aid project includes development and execution of a 12-month fellowship for Black community first responders who will be trained in Mental Health First Aid. This project will improve mental health awareness, literacy, service initiation, and access for Black people in Lexington, Kentucky. Fellows will be featured in a Black Mental Health Public Education Campaign, in addition to providing Mental Health First Aid to community members in need. An Annual Black Mental Health Survey will serve as the evaluation mechanism for this project, which will train 20 Black community first responders annually. One hundred Black community first responders will participate in the Neighborhood Healers Fellowship over the five-year funding period. Community first responders are members of the public, rather than professionally trained people, who are typically the first point of contact in distress or crisis. Among Black communities, where there is understandable cultural mistrust of professional first responders due to documented racial inequity in the quality of service they receive, community first responders often include pastors and first ladies, hair stylists/barbers, community elders, family members, civic organization members, and educators. Thus, providing Mental Health First Aid training to Black community first responders is a sustainable way to impact long term change for Black people, who have underserved mental health needs. Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training for community members, with proven efficacy in increasing mental health literacy and increasing rates at which people who undergo the training refer to licensed mental health professionals. Through the development of the Neighborhood Healers Fellowship program, we intend to harness the strength of existing relationships to amplify the importance of mental health awareness and treatment for Black people in Lexington, Kentucky. Project goals include:
Goal 1: Establish a sustainable network of trained Black community first responders to increase Black Lexingtonians’ initiation and utilization of mental health services.
Goal 2: Reduce mental health stigma of Black Lexingtonians.