Palm Health Foundation Leads Collaboration on CDC Funding to Create Peer-to-Peer Mental Health Training Focused on Overdose Prevention

Partnership brings together Alpert Jewish Family Service with Rebel Recovery Florida 
to train former substance users to deliver Mental Health First Aid to peers


West Palm Beach, Fla. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded a grant to a collaboration of Palm Beach County organizations to create a new peer-to-peer program for former substance users to aid in the mental health of people with substance use disorder. The CDC’s “Overdose Data to Action” grant provides $64,000 in funding for Alpert Jewish Family Service to train 16 Rebel Recovery Florida peer specialists to become instructors for Mental Health First Aid, a nationally renowned, evidence-based training course. Palm Health Foundation, known for bringing together community partners to develop innovative brain health solutions, led the effort to apply for and facilitate the CDC grant.

The CDC’s “Overdose Data to Action” initiative supports prevention efforts as part of its focus on the drug overdose epidemic. The unique Rebel Recovery/Mental Health First Aid model will result in 16 Rebel Recovery peer specialists trained and certified as Mental Health First Aid instructors with a specialized focus on recognizing and responding to the signs of mental health crises, including barriers to wellness often identified in people living with substance use disorder or those at risk for experiencing an overdose. Once certified, the peer specialists will be qualified to present an eight-hour training course to others to identify, understand and respond to barriers to sustained mental wellness which can often be co-occurring with substance use disorder. Initial plans are to offer the training within Rebel Recovery’s local networks.

“Former substance users are able to connect as peers with people suffering from addiction in a way few others can,” said Andy McAusland, Director of Grants & Evaluation at Palm Health Foundation. “We’re providing the peer specialists with life-saving skills to help someone in crisis and guide them to assistance before they overdose.”

The grant will allow Rebel Recovery to join a Mental Health First Aid Coalition that has been in existence in Palm Beach County for seven years, coordinated by AJFS, that has trained over 6,100 individuals and more than 89 instructors, in partnership with more than 16 local agencies and the school district. Rebel Recovery’s peer specialists, individuals with lived experience in recovery who provide recovery support services, will gain a valuable skill, as well as a $1,000 stipend for completing the three-day instructor training. Other partners in the collaborative assisting with the administration and data collection of the grant include the Florida Department of Health and the Health Council of Southeast Florida.

“Palm Health Foundation is deeply dedicated to brain health,” said McAusland. “Our previous efforts to expand Mental Health First Aid, stem the opioid epidemic and provide the annual “Train the Brain” community health campaigns have provided us with insight on how to bring partners together to create greater impact.”

The CDC funding is the second grant to support Palm Health Foundation’s role in expanding Mental Health First Aid in Palm Beach County. In 2019, the Florida Blue Foundation awarded a $238,218 four-year grant to the foundation, which partnered with AJFS to offer Mental Health First Aid instructor training in vulnerable communities, focusing on the uninsured or underinsured, through the foundation’s six Healthier Together communities in West Palm Beach/Riviera Beach, Lake Worth Beach, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Belle Glade.

To give to the Mental Health First Aid Fund at Palm Health Foundation, please visit


About Palm Health Foundation 
Palm Health Foundation is Palm Beach County’s community foundation for health. With the support of donors and a focus on results, the foundation builds strong community partnerships, respects diverse opinions, advocates for its most vulnerable neighbors and inspires innovative solutions to lead change for better health now and for generations to come. The foundation supports health equity for Palm Beach County residents of all backgrounds, heritage, education, incomes and states of well-being. Palm Health Foundation has invested more than $83 million in Palm Beach County health since 2001. For more information about Palm Health Foundation, visit or call (561) 833-6333.

About Rebel Recovery Florida
Rebel Recovery is a low barrier recovery community organization that provides recovery support services, education, and advocacy to people impacted by drug use and those living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS. For more information, visit

About Alpert Jewish Family Service
The Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Service of Palm Beach County, Inc. is a nationally-accredited and recognized leader providing services supporting seniors, adults, children and their families. Serving Palm Beach County since 1974, Alpert JFS is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization with a reputation for delivering high-quality, professional care to help members of the community during challenging times in their lives.  Our services address the well-being of children and families, the independence and well-being of older adults, and the optimal quality of life for individuals with special needs. These services include psychiatry; counseling; case management and care coordination; guardianship; a companionship program; domestic abuse services; support groups; specialized services for Holocaust Survivors and premier residential programming for adults with special needs. For more information, visit

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid or inquire about a training, contact Cindy Wides, Director of Community Outreach/Mental Health First Aid at or 561-238-0251.