FORT WAYNE – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has awarded Parkview Health a $772,000 grant for the creation of a regional suicide prevention program.

The award comes at a critical time, as research shows the pandemic negatively affecting the mental health of northeast Indiana residents.

The grant will be used to hire a project coordinator and four Suicide Obviation and Support navigators.

They will be embedded in hospital emergency departments and connected to resources within the Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, as well as domestic violence organizations and emergency shelters.

The SOS navigators will provide “at-elbow” support for suicidal crisis and domestic violence victims, coordinating care and referrals to treatment programs, support services and community resources.

The team will also conduct suicide prevention training for healthcare providers and community organizations throughout the region.

The same navigator model has been successfully implemented with peer recovery coaches in Parkview’s Medication Assisted Treatment program for opiate or substance use disorder.

“Northeast Indiana has a critical need for suicide prevention efforts, and the effects of the pandemic have heightened that need,” said Connie Kerrigan, director of community outreach, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute.

“For those at risk for suicide, we know there is a disconnect between seeing a health care provider and then following up with treatment or other services. The SOS navigators will help bridge this gap and ensure continuity of care.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Indiana’s suicide rate has been on a steep upward trend, increasing from 13.5 suicide deaths per 100,000 people in 2012 to 16.9 in 2019.

This rate is higher than the national increase (12.4 to 14.5) in the same period.

Additionally, the Informatics Team at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research & Innovation recently conducted two community surveys to examine the impact of COVID-19 on various aspects of physical and mental health.

The surveys revealed that pandemic-related sanctions are having a negative effect on mental health for respondents (55%) and their families (38%).

The SOS navigator program will cover eight northeast Indiana counties: Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Wabash and Whitley.

Parkview’s new suicide prevention program is expected to begin within the next three months.

To be connected to mental health resources anytime, 24 hours a day, call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine at 260-373-7500 or 1-800-284-8439, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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