Health

State public health department receives federal grant for suicide prevention

Grant funds Zero Suicide model in Iowa providers

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

The Iowa Department of Public Health has received a multimillion-dollar grant to implement a statewide program for suicide prevention and intervention.

The $3.5 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration over five years will be used to implement an initiative called the Zero Suicide model across Iowa.

“The number of Iowans dying by suicide has been increasing for 20 years, if not longer than that,” said Pat McGovern, Department of Public Health suicide prevention program coordinator. “We know it’s important to put safety plans in place and help people who may be suicidal to empower them to get help.”

According to the department, 433 Iowans died by suicide in 2017.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Iowans aged 15 to 34, and the ninth leading cause of death in the state overall, according to the department.

Zero Suicide is a national initiative that operates on the premise that “suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable,” according to the initiative’s website. The model encourages systems toward comprehensive suicide prevention and intervention through several strategies, including workforce training, screenings to identify patients at risk and relying on evidence-based treatments.

McGovern said the department will implement the model in a handful of substance-use disorder treatment providers for which it already provides support through other funding streams.

The network of providers is being determined through a formal request-for-proposal process and will be announced in December.

The provider network, which will cover all 99 counties, will be effective Jan. 1, McGovern said.

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The grant will help fund these providers to undergo the Zero Suicide Academy, a training program by national experts through the initiative that boils down to making “the organization suicide-safe in all places,” McGovern said.

The training will given to a variety of staff throughout the organization, from the cleaning crews to leadership.

The Iowa Department of Public Health also is partnering with Foundation 2, a Cedar Rapids-based crisis intervention provider and the state’s contractor for the Your Life Iowa helpline.

Your Life Iowa is a Department of Public Health-sponsored phone and online chat helpline for Iowans to seek help with suicidal thoughts, as well as alcohol, drug and gambling issues.

According to a news release, the department will provide training and technical assistance to Foundation 2 in support of Zero Suicide strategic plans, including patient management plans and follow-ups.

“This is our safety net so no one falls through the cracks,” McGovern said.

Those who are feeling suicidal or are concerned about someone else who may be feeling suicidal are encouraged to contact Your Life Iowa.

Individuals can call Your Life Iowa at (855) 581-8111 or text (855) 895-8398. Its online chat function can be found at www.yourlifeiowa.org.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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