LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand mental health support for students

LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, Jan. 31, 2022. | Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

LaGuardia Community College’s Wellness Center has received a $500,000 four-year grant to continue to focus on the importance of mental health and wellness to ensure the academic success of its students. 

Regina Varin-Mignano, PhD, LCSW-R, manager of Health and Wellness Education and Grant Development, and Frank LaTerra-Bellino, director of LaGuardia’s Wellness Center, were recently awarded the grant for their “Mental Health Literacy & Crisis Intervention” Project. The grant was awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The purpose of the project is to expand and strengthen the “safety net” for those at risk for mental health concerns by teaching them how to intervene effectively and/or de-escalate a mental health-related crisis. 

Faculty, staff, and students at LaGuardia will be trained in how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis, including suicide.

Three evidence-based models in mental health distress and crisis intervention will be used in training: Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) , QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer.), and CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training. A special focus will be made on high-risk populations, including LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, international and culturally diverse students, African-American students, and student veterans.

“The overall goals of the LaGuardia Mental Health Literacy & Crisis Intervention Project are to increase awareness of mental health, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention in the LaGuardia and outside community through evidence-based practice training of faculty, staff, and students,” Mignano said. “We also want to decrease stigma among high-risk and non-English speaking populations on campus; train faculty and key staff, including wellness counselors and LaGuardia public safety in CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training.”

LaTerra-Bellino said the project also aims to connect with on- and off-campus resources that can assist in providing specialized services and resources to students, including clinical support and accommodations.

“We hope to increase regional mental health services and capacity and hopefully reduce wait times and strengthen regional collaboration and cooperation,” LaTerra-Bellino said.

The research team plans include training 500 key faculty and staff (100 per year), such as Wellness Center counselors, Human Services faculty, and public safety, and 500 students (100 per year) in evidence-based, best practice trainings, including MHFA, QPR, and CPI Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training over the lifetime of the project.

The team will also work in collaboration with on- and off-campus resources and facilities that can aid in assisting students with clinical support and additional resources that may not be available within the Wellness Center, including LaGuardia’s Office of Accessibility and Veterans Resource Center, as well as community-based resources including the Northwell Behavioral College Partnership program, the Mount Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence (SAVI) program, Safe Horizon, and the Floating Hospital.