As published in the Sentinel Record, July 13, 2016, by Jay Bell:
CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs has been awarded more than $71,000 in grant funding to aid in local suicide prevention efforts.
The hospital worked with the Garland County Suicide Prevention Coalition to apply for a Violence Prevention Grant from the national Catholic Health Initiatives system. St. Vincent pledged $6,000 toward the salary of a position focused on suicide prevention.
The announcement was made during the coalition’s monthly meeting Monday at the Garland County Health Department. The national CHI system awarded St. Vincent Hot Springs $71,510 for the first year of the grant.
Patrick McCruden, senior vice president and chief mission officer for CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, said grant funding will likely continue in the future.
“They do ask that you set a long-range goal,” McCruden said. “For us, it would be reducing the suicide rate for Garland County, but then have intermediary steps.”
McCruden said the hospital has set long-term plans to address local suicide rates. A portion of the grant is dedicated to the salary of a part-time position. He said the hospital will not end its efforts nor discontinue the position if grant funding is not approved next year.
“It’s a commitment on the part of the organization,” McCruden said. “I think we have a really good chance of continuing to get grant funding.”
The grant includes $50,510 to be used for miscellaneous uses. Coalition Chairwoman Susie Reece said plans will be made to engage the community in suicide prevention.
“Our coalition is thrilled to be venturing into a new partnership with CHI St. Vincent,” Reece said. “We look forward to working even harder, with their backing, to proactively reduce suicide attempts and deaths.
“We would like to thank VP Patrick McCruden for his unwavering support of our efforts and for all of his efforts in making this opportunity a reality. We hope this will be the first of many steps forward for our community’s suicide prevention efforts.”
The first-year funds must be spent by June 30, 2017. Reece said some of the grant may be used for local training. The coalition regularly helps provide and facilitate training sessions throughout the area.
Garland County Coroner Stuart Smedley recently helped coalition members finalize suicide data from 2015. A total of 39 suicides occurred in Garland County last year.
Unofficial totals previously showed the county with 41 suicides during 2015. Last year’s total increased from 37 suicide deaths in 2014.
The 2014 rate of 41.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 people was third-most in the state, more than twice the state average and more than three times the national rate of 12.57. Montana has the highest suicide rate in the country at 23.72.
The state average is 17.25. Garland County’s 23 suicide deaths in 2013 was its lowest total since 2007.
Coalition members have begun to analyze the data and plot where the deaths have occurred. Reece said grant funds could help provide prevention advertisements in areas where more deaths have occurred.
Reece is scheduled to meet with the Dawson Education Service Cooperative in Arkadelphia to address liability issues and student safety in schools. The co-op works with 22 school districts in the area, including all seven in Garland County.
The coalition may expand its service throughout the region. Reece said the group has received significant interest from outside of the county in helping with suicide prevention efforts.
Members said they will consider renaming the coalition in the near future to reflect a broader service area before it files as a nonprofit organization next year. The group’s website will soon be live with a number of resources available from contributing organizations.
The coalition will help host a community discussion on mental health and suicide prevention July 25 in the Roy Rowe Auditorium at the Hot Springs School District’s Jones School Administration Building, 400 Linwood Ave. First responders and health care providers were involved in the first of three planned meetings in May to evaluate local services.
The July 25 meeting is open to the public. A panel will feature representatives from CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, Community Counseling Services, Garland County Coroner’s office, Garland County Sheriff’s Department, Hot Springs Fire Department, Hot Springs Police Department, Levi Hospital, LifeNet, National Park Medical Center, Quapaw House and more. The panel will be moderated by Susan Millerd, behavioral intervention specialist for National Park College.
The coalition and Therapeutic Family Services are seeking a diverse group of community members to be featured in a public service announcement to air on television and radio during Suicide Awareness Month in September. Call Reece at 501-249-9758 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.