Health Department to expand suicide prevention program with federal grant

DES MOINES — Iowa’s Department of Public Health has received a federal grant to expand suicide prevention efforts in all 99 counties.

The department’s Suicide Prevention Director, Pat McGovern, says the money will be used to implement a program. “It’s called the Zero Suicide Model and it’s really looking at systems — so not looking at individual one place or one spot where someone who may be suicidal is touching the system — but the entire system, and to make that system suicide safe,” according toe McGovern.

He says hospitals are using the system and this will allow them to expand it to other areas, such as substance abuse providers. “So if someone is coming in for a substance abuse disorder treatment and they’re getting inpatient service, we’re in that inpatient clinic or that inpatient location making sure that all those places where that patient is touching that system, that it is suicide safe,” McGovern says.

McGovern says “Suicide Safe” means making it so that everyone is able to be open and share their feelings about what is happening. “And that if someone does share that information — because that can be a stressful thing to hear or to talk about — that people are trained to know to respond appropriately,” McGovern says. “And one not to immediately push the panic button and call 911 or something like that, but treat the person where they are at to make them feel comfortable. To acknowledge this is something that you are working with, you are working through or dealing with and what can we do to be supportive?” He says that want everyone to know what to do when the topic of suicide comes up. “The biggest thing is making people feel more welcome and open to talk about that kind of thing. To talk about suicide,” McGovern says.

IDPH numbers show suicide is the second leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15 through 34, and the ninth leading cause of death overall in Iowa. There were 433 suicide deaths in Iowa in 2017. “Unfortunately despite work that is going one both here in state and nationally, the number of people who are dying by suicide continues to increase. We see this as an opportunity to really put safeguards in place,” McGovern says. The federal grant is $3.5 million for five years.

McGovern says they will work with Foundation2 in Cedar Rapids to administer the program. He says if you are feeling suicidal or are concerned about someone else, please contact Your Life Iowa. “It’s a really good resource, it’s answered by an Iowa organization and your call is not being routed outside the state or anywhere else,” McGovern says. “To reach Your Life Iowa, the phone number is 855-581-8111 or you can text at 855-895-8398. And finally they have an online chat function, so if you just visit yourlifeiowa.org and on the right hand side there’s an online chat.”

McGovern says the early work will be developing the contracts with the people they are working with on this project as they roll it out across the state.

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