Local CNAs Complete Training Course Focused on Patients’ Behavioral Health Needs

Neighborhood sponsored this first-of-its-kind training to enhance caregivers’ ability to address mental health and substance abuse issues

November 22, 2017 (Smithfield) – Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (Neighborhood) today announced the successful completion of a first-ever specialized training program for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). A dozen CNAs graduated from the training, meant to enhance their ability to care for people with significant behavioral health needs, on November 18th.

The eight-week course was sponsored by Neighborhood and based on a curriculum created and delivered at Rhode Island College’s (RIC) Institute for Healthcare Education.

“Earlier this year, we were talking with our partners in the long-term care community about workforce development and their need for specialized training to help their staff work with patients who have significant behavioral health needs,” said Alison Croke, Vice President of Neighborhood’s Medicaid/Medicare program. “The team at Neighborhood decided to sponsor the development of just such a training program as part of our ongoing work to help our members live independently, in their own homes, whenever possible.”


The participants in this first-ever training were chosen by the supervisors of their respective home care agencies. They spent eight Saturdays at Rhode Island College, focusing intensely on the needs of the populations they serve. They paid particular attention to addressing the mental health needs of their patients, as well as the connection between behavioral issues and substance abuse.

RIC Assistant Professor Marianne Raimondo customized this training specifically for professionals working in home care. It is based on earlier courses taught by Raimondo, who is also the Executive Director of RIC’s Institute for Education in Health Care.

“It has been exciting to watch the certified nursing assistants engage in this training and connect the learning to their patients,” Raimondo said.

Gail Cline, one of the CNAs who completed the training, called the entire experience “a great resource” when it comes to “better understanding and assisting my clients, as well as family members, and other people in general.”

Another graduate, Arelis Almonte, said the training gave her much-needed information about how to identify “depression, anxiety, dementia, stress, schizophrenia, and other illnesses, making it easier for the caregiver and the patient to interact in a more effective way.”

Lori Ellison, RN, the Administrator at Cowesett Home Care, was one of the advocates who pushed for the creation of this program. She says the students took away valuable, relevant information.

“This behavioral health training program has empowered our paraprofessional staff with the necessary tools to provide care to clients suffering from mental illness and substance abuse,” Ellison said.

Peter Marino, President and CEO at Neighborhood, addressed the graduates at their closing ceremony and described them as “pioneers” doing vital work in the community.

“Your connection with Neighborhood’s most vulnerable members makes you a valuable resource for them when they’re trying to deal with the issues that brought you to their doorstep,” Marino told the students. “You play a critical role in helping folks get well, stay well, and have the opportunity to live in their homes and age gracefully.”