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Planning for suicide prevention

Avera Holy Family, ELC and public health collaborate on a planning grant for mental health and suicide prevention

August 27, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer (apeterson@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

By Amy H. Peterson

Staff Writer

Joseph May, Mission Director for Avera Holy Family Hospital said a group of community members in the helping professions was all feeling the same thing about a continuing issue of suicidal ideation and attempts in Emmet County youth: "What can we do?"

May said one suicidal person in Emmet County is too many, whether it's an attempt or a completion.

"We don't say, 'commit suicide' around this issue today. We say 'kill yourself,' because it's more direct," May said. Avera is part of a community network that envisions a zero-suicide community because everyone has access to the mental health care and tools they need to live a healthy life.

After researching several avenues, Avera Holy Family, Estherville Lincoln Central School District and Emmet County Public Health found a grant from HRSA, the Health Services & Resource Administration, an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

HRSA awarded the three entities, who formed the Emmet County Behavioral Health Network, a one-year planning grant of $99,406 based on Emmet County's status as a Health Professional Shortage Area.

May said, "It's a planning grant. It gives us the resources to plan it and plan it well. [Members of the Network] will meet monthly to plan strategies for additional mental health and suicide prevention resources for our youth. It's important to us to reach young people."

The Network was the only grant recipient for a planning grant in the state of Iowa. If the planning process is successful, the Network will qualify for a three-year grant to implement the plan of increasing access to mental health services.

In the coming year, the Network will hold listening sessions facilitated by Sharon Hooge and Mary Moorman of Emmet County Public Health, in which members of the community will talk about the issues that affect them.

"We will gather data, analyze it and determine the best practices to address the most crucial issues," May said.

May said, "We worked hard on the grant application. Avera in Sioux Falls was integral to the grant writing process, and each member of the team was fully committed. We care about kids and want to see our youth do well."

Questions network members addressed were how to get ahead of the surge of mental illness with preventative care, with quality health care, how can the community end the stigma of mental illness.

"When you're sick, you go to the doctor. When your brain isn't feeling well, you should be able to go to a doctor without any fear of embarrassment or of what other people will think," May said.

Members of the network took a class in Mental Health First Aid, both for adults and for youth. Mental illnesses have been assigned stages, not unlike degrees of cancer.

"Many youth with mental illness don't get help when they're young, when the illness is in stages one or two. They get help years later, when the illness is stage three or four, when they're having trouble getting or keeping a job, trouble in their relationships, and hit a downward spiral in which it's hard to cope. If they had treatment when they were kids, they might have developed the coping skills and had the support they needed," May said.

While May represents the Avera Holy Family point of the network, he said it was the partners who go out and do the hard work of helping youth with mental illness.

"[ELC superintendent] Tara Paul is dedicated to helping kids in Estherville get what they need. We could not do this without her," May said.

Of Kathy Preston, director of Emmet County Public Health, May said, "She sees health at ground level, and she helps us [at Avera Holy Family ] see things from all perspectives. Without [Paul and Preston], we could not do this."

May is the Project Director. Cathi Sharnberg, Vice-president of patient care at Avera Holy Family, and Preston, are co-recruitment leads. Jennifer Hough, Assistant Director of Marketing and Business at ELC and Jennifer Nitchals, the District Induction Coach will werve as co-communication leads. Additional staff at Avera in Sioux Falls will also provide support for the project.

 
 
 

 

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