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Idaho State University evaluating suicide prevention efforts with new grant 

By Chris Cole, Kasiska Division Marketing Assistant | September 22, 2020

Institute of Rural Health focusing on decreasing suicide in Idaho

POCATELLO – Multiple government and educational organizations are coming together to address suicide in Idaho, including Idaho State University’s Institute of Rural Health.

The State Department of Education received a $3.6-million, five-year federal grant for suicide prevention. Idaho State has received $40,000 of that to serve as one of several entities across the state that will analyze, evaluate and report data on activities and interventions with Idaho’s youth age 10 to 24 who are at-risk for suicide.

“Connectedness is a strong protective factor against suicide,” said Russ Spearman, principal investigator of the grant. “This will implement a transition program that includes developing templates and instruction for Sources of Strength (a universal suicide prevention program) peer leaders to help youth move from school to school or into college and workplaces.” 

The grant, titled the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Grant, was distributed through the Idaho Lives Project. The organization aims to decrease the suicide rate in youth. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho is consistently one of the states with the with the highest suicide rates in our nation.

“Our team is dedicated to supporting the larger efforts of the GLS grant in reducing youth suicides across the state and supporting all of those impacted personally and/or professionally by this topic,” said Elaine Nguyen, assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and co-investigator of the GLS Grant. “Preventing youth suicide is important for our entire statewide community.”

In the 2019 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 22 percent of students surveyed said they had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 39 percent of students - more than any time in the past decade - reported feeling sad or hopeless.

Spearman says it is expected the grant will do three things: increase the number of youth serving organizations who are able to identify and work with youth at risk of suicide; increase the capacity of clinical service providers to assess, manage, and treat youth at risk of suicide; and improve the continuity of care and follow-up of youth identified to be at risk for suicide, those who have been discharged from emergency departments and inpatient psychiatric units, especially in rural areas where access to services is limited.

“This grant provides a meaningful opportunity to make an impact on reducing suicide rates in Idaho through a multi-faceted approach,” Spearman said. “Our team is excited to receive the subcontract and looks forward to conducting the evaluation.” 

The grant will be funded on a yearly basis, but both Spearman and Nguyen are hopeful Idaho State will continue to receive the funding each year for the five-year span of the grant.

“Preventing youth suicide and supporting those impacted by youth suicide is a huge need in Idaho,” Nguyen said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to support the efforts of the GLS Grant in their work.”

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