INDIANAPOLIS – A faculty member in Trine University’s Master of Physician Assistant
Studies program will receive specialized training in mental health conditions and
substance use disorders thanks to a new initiative sponsored by the American Academy
of Physician Associates (AAPA) and the Indianapolis Colts.
In turn, she will train Trine PA students and potentially other faculty to identify,
understand and respond to signs of mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Constantina Sloffer, MPAS, PA-C, CAQ-Psych, associate professor, will be part of the
first cohort of 12 Indiana-based physician assistants to take part in Mental Health
First Aid training from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. The cohort includes
faculty members from Indiana-based PA programs.
The initiative, announced May 23 during AAPA’s 2022 national conference in Indianapolis,
seeks to improve mental health in Indiana and aims to train at least 2,000 people
“The Mental Health First Aid course will give our students the skills to help someone
who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis,”
Sloffer said. “Additionally, this program has the potential to be expanded throughout
the university so that all faculty could receive training to spot potential mental
health issues with their students who may be struggling.”
She said the goal is not for faculty or students to act as mental health professionals,
but to provide support until one is available.
“Just as CPR helps assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First
Aid helps assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis such as contemplating
suicide or substance use-related crisis,” she said. “In both situations, the goal
is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives.”
The training will not only benefit future patients of Trine PA students, Sloffer said,
but help the students themselves navigate difficult mental health-related situations
in their own lives and with their families.
“It will equip them and those around them with the initial tools to identify distress
symptoms and the confidence and knowledge to intervene if needed, especially where
they find themselves in an environment that is a unique social microcosm with little
access to their usual support systems,” she said.
According to AAPA, Mental Health First Aid-trained PAs are in a unique position to
help patients with mental illnesses because they often are the first point of contact
for patients in primary care and other practices.
The partnership was made possible by an $85,000 donation from the Colts and a $30,000
investment from AAPA. The Indiana Center for Recovery, a statewide program that treats
patients with mental illness or substance use disorders, is also supporting the initiative
with a grant. Together, the funds will cover the cost and coordination of three days
of training, including books and materials needed for the PAs to become certified
mental health trainers and to present to audiences around the state.
Launched in 2018, Trine’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program enables students
to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) to earn certification.
The program is part of Trine’s College of Health Professions in Fort Wayne.