Behavioral Health Wellness

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2019 Behavioral Health Symposium – The Commonwealth’s Annual Behavioral Health symposium for 2019 will be held June 6, 2019 near Richmond, Virginia. This year’s symposium will focus on Strengthening Trauma-Informed Care in Virginia: Positive Connections and Resilience Across the Lifespan.

Event registration is now closed. Agenda and speaker information can be found here.
More details about the event can be found here.

Presentations that are received in advance of the symposium will be posted below. Other available presentations will be posted after the event. Presentations are listed below in order of presentation:

  • Hughes Melton, MD, Commissioner, DBHDS
    Promoting Trauma-Informed Care at DBHDS (Presentation)

  • Keynote Speaker: Joan Gillece, PhD, NASMHPD
    Moving From Theory to Practice (Presentation)

  • Breakout 2: Jessica Young Brown, PhD, LCP
    – Understanding Generational Trauma in African Americans

  • Breakout 3: Brian Meyer, PhD, LCP, McGuire VA Medical Center -
    Assessing and Treating Combat Stress and PTSD in Veterans: What You Need to Know
  • Breakout 4: Michael Olsen, MA, DBHDS and Panel Discussion
    Jamie MacDonald, Loudoun County MHSADS, and Michelle Wagaman, Rappahannock Area CSB
    – Engaging Mental Health First Aid in Virginia’s Communities
    • (Handout 1) - Mental Health First Aid USA
    • (Handout 2) - Why Mental Health First Aid?
    • (Handout 3) - Youth Mental Health First Aid
    • (Handout 7) - Mental Health First Aid: Suicide Prevention
    • (Handout 8) - Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety
    • (Handout 9) - Mental Health First Aid: Military Members, Veterans and their Families
    • (Handout 10) - Mental Health First Aid in Higher Education

Prevention Definition — Delivered prior to the onset of a disorder, these interventions are intended to prevent or reduce the risk of developing a behavioral health problem such as substance abuse and/or mental illness, such as underage alcohol use, prescription drug misuse and abuse, and illicit drug use.


DBHDS' Behavioral Health Wellness mission is to increase behavioral health wellness by promoting SA prevention and mental health wellness in the environment, communities and individuals. The guiding principles include:

  • Data driven decision making.
  • Collaborate with state and local prevention systems to build capacity through training, technical assistance and resources to increase population level behavioral health wellness.
  • Utilize the strategic prevention framework to shape systems development, identify service delivery priorities and outcome evaluation.
  • Ensure the implementation of proven prevention programs, practices, strategies, and policies.
  • Integrate cultural competence throughout the prevention system.
  • Monitor prevention system effectiveness and efficiency to achieve population level change through performance management.

Provides a comprehensive system of care that incorporates program, practices, and strategies to support the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of families.

  • Evidence based programs that support the DBHDS’ implementation of the Strategic Prevention Framework through programs proven to enhance family health and wellness, family relationships, increased family management, children’s mental health and reduce substance abuse.
  • Environmental strategies aimed at influencing community conditions, standards, institutions, systems and policies to support the physical, economic, legal and socio-cultural conditions of families and communities .
  • Family Wellness Advisory Boards provide a venue for diverse community partners to participate in a process that assists in the planning, decision making and implementation of programs, practices, and strategies and leverages resources to successfully  implement the community ‘s wellness plan.
  • Social Marketing & Media that help raise awareness, promote healthy norms and behaviors and support policy changes related to family wellness.

Promotes and encourages wellness by increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors through community collaboration and strategies.

  • SYNAR works to reduce tobacco sales to underage youth by educating merchants about the consequences of selling to youth under the age of 21.
  • SPF-SIG (Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant) works to reduce alcohol-related traffic accidents and deaths among 18-25 year olds.
  • Lead & Seed is a youth empowered, environmental approach that works to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use in communities across the Commonwealth.
  • Community Coalitions, through partnerships with community sectors, work to prevent and reduce substance abuse by addressing community norms.
  • In February 2019, Governor Northam signed a Tobacco 21 bill into law. This bill raises the legal age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21 and is effective July 1, 2019.
    • We have created some frequently asked questions regarding the law.
      • Questions that the public might have, click here.
      • Questions retailers of tobacco and nicotine products might have, click here
    • If you have additional questions, please contact Colleen Hughes, Synar Coordinator at or (804)663-7289.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Adult Instructor Training and Youth Instructor Training - Instructor certification training introduces the 8-hour course, overviews adult learning styles and teaching strategies, and provides in-depth instruction on implementing and managing the program in diverse communities. The 5-day training teaches you how to:

  • Teach the Mental Health First Aid course, including the 5-step action plan, evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies, and prevalence data.
  • Present the program with fidelity to the tested, core model.
  • Apply the program to a range of adult learning styles.
  • Tailor presentations to diverse audiences and learning environments.
  • Instructor certification is awarded specifically for both the adult and youth courses. If you want to teach both types of courses, you must first certify as an instructor through a 5-day training (for one course type), and then go through a 2.5-day training for the other course type you want to teach.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) Training for Trainers (T4T) - The ASIST Training for Trainers (T4T) course trains persons with existing trainer experience to conduct the two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST) workshop.