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Suicide coalition being formed: Expanding community awareness and mental health knowledge

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 1/24/2024

Jan. 23—Otter Tail County Public Health has been awarded a four-year Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. The county will use the grant funds to build onto existing measures in place to help in suicide prevention.

In order to gather information on what the needs in the community are concerning mental health, a workgroup was formed in 2021. With this in place, the suicide prevention grant will allow Otter Tail County Public Health to develop an action plan and implementation strategies to further promote mental health and suicide prevention measures.

Reese Ellison, Otter Tail County public health educator, said, "Otter Tail County is dedicated to improving the lives of all residents and visitors. The goal of the next four years is to implement a plan that meets the needs of our entire community and improves mental health for all."

Otter Tail County and Lake Region Healthcare have partnered to implement a Zero Suicide framework. Former chief nursing officer for LRH Roberta Young said, "This important collaboration will improve suicide prevention efforts in our communities and help us better equip our staff to best care for people at risk of suicide and self-harm."

With the formation of a Suicide Prevention Coalition, there is the need for members to join and serve. Ellison explained, "The main responsibility of coalition members is to attend our coalition meetings that will be held quarterly and last no longer than two hours."

During the meetings, coalition members will help review community data, create strategies to promote mental health awareness, decrease suicidal ideation and help make plans to implement the strategies. "I hope to keep any homework to a minimum, as most of the coalition members have other jobs and responsibilities; however, there may be times when I do ask for some outside involvement." Some of the things asked of coalition members would be reviewing materials, providing ideas or feedback, supporting strategies the coalition wishes to implement and spreading awareness for the work they would like to do.

The Minnesota Department of Health will provide training and technical assistance and with that, be able to increase suicide care management, access to mental health services and follow-up care for individuals identified as at-risk for suicide.

Ellison said, "At this point, I am not putting a number limit on members. We do have a healthy number of members at this time, but I'm happy to include more who are passionate about this topic. I do foresee a bit of fluctuation in attendance and participation, just due to the nature of some member's jobs."

Coalition members should represent the community and come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Currently, it is made up of law enforcement, healthcare workers, school counselors, crisis stabilization workers, mental health workers and community members with personal experience.

"We'd love for more community members, as well as faith leaders since we don't have much representation in those areas," Ellison added.

The plan is to have the first meeting mid-February.

Interested parties can contact Ellison at rellison@ottertailcounty.gov.

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(c)2024 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.)

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