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Gina DeMent and Five County CIT Officer Win State’s 2017 Innovative Instructor Team Award

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The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services recently recognized Gina DeMent, a Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Community Engagement Specialist based in the Five County Community Office, as a N.C. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Hero.

DeMent was selected by the state along with Scott Strickland as the Innovative Instructor Team for 2017. Strickland is the Five County Officer of Record for the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program and is a retired law enforcement officer and fire fighter.

Last year, DeMent suggested that Strickland take the Mental Health First Aid course so he could work with Cardinal Innovations to teach the MHFA first responder curriculum in the Five County communities, which include Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Vance and Warren counties.

DeMent and Strickland decided to work together to offer the MHFA training with CIT training in the Five County area. Strickland also teaches classes in the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at a local community college, so DeMent and Strickland were able to offer continuing education credits to all first responders who took the training.

DeMent, who has worked for Cardinal Innovations for 18 years, brings the mental health side to the training. Strickland does the law enforcement parts. The responses from their classes have been positive. They said bringing the two areas together gives more credibility and interest to the classes.

“At the time we started the partnership, (Strickland) was the only law enforcement officer teaching MHFA in North Carolina," DeMent said. “We thought it would be a great partnership since he and I have been working together in the Five County area teaching CIT and wanted to be able to teach first responders both sides of the mental health training."

DeMent and Strickland have now taught more than 140 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)/paramedics in the Five County area, including Granville detention, Vance detention, and Halifax fire and police. They also are starting to teach 911 employees in Vance County and School Resource Officers (SROs).

Thanks to grants relating to community paramedics, DeMent and Strickland also were able to couple MHFA training with the 32-hour, three-day CIT certification course, better preparing these first responders to work toward the best possible outcome for individuals experiencing behavioral health crises.

DeMent and Strickland now have requests from other agencies to teach MHFA coupled with the CIT certification training and plan to begin working with their area magistrates.

DeMent said education is important to decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illness. “Having lived experience, I have a passion for those who have dealt with the stigma of being diagnosed with a behavioral health disorder. I love to teach and want to make a difference in the lives of those I teach."

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