December 7, 2004
A suicide prevention program in Arizona appears to be taking shape after years of struggling for attention and funding.
State health officials Monday announced $245,000 in federal substance abuse prevention money for suicide prevention programs targeting American Indians, the elderly and at-risk youth. Tumbleweed Center in Valley will receive funding for struggling youth, but most of the money will go to rural counties and tribes.
There still is no state funding dedicated to suicide prevention, though Arizona’s suicide rate is sixth in the nation, based on 2002 figures, up from 10th the previous year. Nationwide, suicide is the third leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24.
The federal money, however, is the first directly targeted to suicide prevention in Arizona, and comes as advocates hope to implement a statewide plan that’s been two years in the making.
"It’s a really nice chunk of change when you consider we had zero," said Joyce Gatson, suicide prevention coordinator for the Mental Health Association of Arizona.
The state’s first suicide prevention coordinator, Heather Brown, has been working with the nonprofit Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition to implement a state plan and a media campaign.
She said some of the local programs will include outreach and public relations campaigns to spread the suicide prevention message.
Most suicide prevention programs depend on federal or philanthropic grants and often are pieces of larger substance abuse or mental health efforts.
"This is the first time the state has really given money to the providers to actually effect change in the community," said Patricia Kempker, manager of suicide prevention services for the Tempe-based EMPACT. Kempker and Gatson also are members of the coalition.
The efforts also lay the groundwork for the state to attract some of the $82 million in federal funds dedicated over the next three years to help prevent youth suicide.
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, named for a U.S. senator’s son who killed himself last year, cleared the Senate unanimously and the House 352-64, with three Valley-area Republicans voting against it.
Matthew Specht, spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake, RAriz., said the East Valley congressman voted against the bill because of a provision allowing treatment without parental consent.
"That was really his only objection," Specht said. "It was something he felt pretty strongly about."
The law creates a research center and will provide millions of dollars to states and universities for early intervention and prevention programs.
It requires parental notification for all programs, assessments and treatment, except in an emergency "where it is necessary to protect the immediate health and safety of the student or other students."
Pay attention if someone you know:
• : Loses interest in hobbies, work or school.
• : Changes eating or sleeping habits.
• : Withdraws from friends, family or social activities.
• : Takes unnecessary risks; increases use of drugs or alcohol.
• : Talks or writes about suicide.
• : Gives away personal possessions.
• : Obtains a weapon.
Call for help
If you or someone you know needs help, call:
• : EMPACT 24-hour crisis line, (480) 784-1500, (800) 784-2433
• : Teen Lifeline, (800) 248-8336
• : ValueOptions crisis line, (602) 222-9444