After hearing about the success of the Zero Suicide approach – a comprehensive program developed by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention – Tri-County Mental Health Services adopted the program last year.

The goal was to:

  • save more lives
  • using a consistent, proven method

After only about 18 months, the feedback from staff and clients has been overwhelmingly positive.

It started in early 2017. With the increasing rates of suicide throughout the country as well as locally, we realized it was time for all of our mental health providers to thoroughly evaluate our practices. We attended the Zero Suicide Academy to gain knowledge about this concept, and then formed a Zero Suicide implementation team that would bring it back to Tri-County.

Here’s how the program was implemented:

  • We completed a workforce survey to assess the staff’s comfort level and knowledge of suicide risk.
  • After looking at the results, we developed a work plan with goals. Those goals included that everyone in our workforce at Tri-County would receive training in suicide safe care.

Today, all youth and adults served by Tri-County are screened for suicide risk.

Using the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, those with moderate/high risk for suicide will work collaboratively with a trained provider to develop an effective individualized safety plan, including restriction of lethal means.

To date, we have received positive feedback from clients regarding our safety plans. In addition, we’ve received positive feedback about our staff and their genuine concern specifically regarding our follow up procedures because we continue to ask about a clients’ risk of suicide.

The goals don’t stop there. In September 2018, we will be creating what is called an Enhanced Care Pathway for individuals at risk for suicide. This will reflect standards for continued monitoring for ongoing safety planning, treatment planning and frequency of contact. And internally, we are working to identify outcomes to be tracked and methods for tracking.

We are pleased to have adopted evidence-based practices and are now using standardized and consistent methods of assessing risk, safety planning and monitoring. Tri-County is making sure its staff and providers have the skills and confidence to treat those who are struggling with suicide.

Ultimately, it is our goal to save lives as well as make the Northland a safer place to live and work. We believe this approach is helping us to achieve it.