Bringing Mental Health First Aid to the Community


Gateway Healthcare's Mental Health First Aid program is certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health.

Training reduces risk for both patients, responders

Police officers and other safety personnel face uncertainty on every call. What they know for sure is that each situation will be different and demands to be treated that way. 

It’s a reality that becomes even more challenging when they engage someone suffering from a mental health problem. 

Thanks to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training offered by Gateway Healthcare, many police officers and security personnel are learning to better identify a mental health issue, defuse a situation, and protect and serve all involved. 

Public safety is just one of many sectors benefiting from MHFA training. Corporate leaders, educators, health care workers and social service professionals also have taken advantage of the training in recent years. 

The program’s value was highlighted in 2015, when Rhode Island became the first state to require law enforcement personnel to be trained and nationally certified in MHFA. 

“We are fortunate that our state’s elected leaders see the value of ensuring that police officers are trained in MHFA as another way to protect them and the people they serve,” said Joseph Coffey, a retired Warwick Police Department captain who is now a Gateway MHFA instructor.

Gateway Healthcare was among the first organizations in the United States chosen to implement the MHFA program and has pioneered its development since 2008.

Coffey said MHFA training helps empower officers to make more informed decisions in tense moments, when their safety and that of others is at stake. The training has also been adopted by college campus police and security departments, including the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island. 

Certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health, MHFA is focused on helping safety personnel recognize the signs of common mental health disorders such as anxiety, stress, depression and substance abuse. Principals of MHFA guide officers in how they can approach and communicate with a person in crisis until professional treatment and support are provided.  

The training offers simple yet powerful tools that participants can use to:

  • Provide initial on-site help for individuals who may be experiencing a mental health  problem
  • Guide those individuals toward appropriate professional assistance
  • Defuse potentially dangerous or disruptive situations 

Gateway experts provide MHFA training and certification in an eight-hour course. For more information, please contact MHFA@lifespan.org or 401-360-2777.