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AG Coffman Joins Pueblo Community Leaders to Announce Youth Suicide Prevention Initiatives Across Colorado

DENVER, CO — Today Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman was in Pueblo to announce the launch of two new statewide youth suicide prevention initiatives.


“Suicide is not only a mental health, family or school issue, it is public health challenge and community issue that requires coordinated and comprehensive prevention efforts,” said Attorney General Coffman. “Too many families in our state have faced the incredible tragedy of losing a child, and when a young person dies by suicide it doesn’t just impact their family or friends, it causes ripples across the community. We know that we have young people in our state who are struggling and we must respond to their cries for help.”


Colorado consistently ranks in the top ten states with the highest suicide rate. More Coloradans die by suicide than by homicide, motor vehicle crash, diabetes, and breast cancer, and it is the 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 10-34.


The Attorney General’s Office oversees the statewide Safe2Tell program. Safe2Tell is a very successful and effective anonymous bystander reporting program where any concerned individual can make a report by phone, on the computer or via the mobile application when they fear for their safety or the safety of others, in schools or in communities. Children’s lives across Colorado have been saved because someone was concerned about them and had the courage to speak up and report that information to Safe2Tell.


For the past three years, reports related to youth suicide intervention have been the number one type of tip received by Safe2Tell.
In the 2014-2015 school year, there were 673 suicide intervention tips. That number grew substantially in the 2016-2017 school year, with Safe2Tell receiving 1,742 suicide intervention tips.


Because of the alarming trend of youth suicides, the Attorney General’s Office has looked to support the good work already being done in the area of suicide prevention across Colorado.


Funding for youth suicide prevention programs has been very limited, and in order to assist schools with the implementation of these programs, the Attorney General’s Office is providing $200,000 in funding that will allow up to 40 schools in Colorado to implement the Sources of Strength program.


Sources of Strength is a best-practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse.


Sources of Strength works to prevent suicide by promoting connections between specially trained peers and caring adults. The program emphasizes that it’s acceptable for youth to seek help, and teaches coping skills.


“Sources of Strength is excited to partner with the Colorado Attorney General’s office and communities across Colorado to help strengthen and support resilient, connected, and healthy individuals, schools, and communities,” said Sources of Strength Deputy Director Scott LoMurray. “We are humbled to partner with thousands of passionate youth and caring adults across Colorado, to empower them as a force for positive change in our state. We look forward to playing our part in moving our prevention efforts upstream and helping not just to keep people alive, but to help them to live full and healthy lives of connection and hope.”


For the second initiative, the Attorney General’s Office will be providing $173,000 to fund a study that will analyze and characterize the trends and patterns in the fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviors among young people in the four Colorado counties with the highest rates of youth suicide: El Paso, La Plata, Mesa, and Pueblo. The purpose of the study is to determine the best strategies for addressing and preventing youth suicide in Colorado and to see where the state’s efforts and dollars can be used most effectively.


“Rates are high in Pueblo; one suicide is too many. Pueblo City-County Health Department and community partners have proven success when taking a strategic collaborative effort with local, state, and federal partners to a health issue in Pueblo,” stated Sylvia Proud, public health director at the Pueblo City-County Health Department.


The project will draw on a variety of sources of information, including information from focus groups with community members to understand the climate, attitudes, knowledge and existing risk and protective factors related to suicide and mental health within those counties. The Attorney General’s Office will partner with Health Management Associates (HMA) and the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention on the study. Between January 2017 and the end of May 2018, HMA will conduct focus groups with numerous stakeholders. Once the project is completed, a report will be prepared by HMA summarizing findings and providing recommendations for potential responses to youth suicide prevention, some of which will be specific to each county.

"The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, through the Office of Suicide Prevention, is pleased to welcome the Attorney General's Office as a funding partner in prevention efforts. Suicide is a community issue and in order for prevention efforts to be successful, all partners need to be engaged at the table. This includes not only state and government, but also private businesses and foundations, schools and workplaces, as well as the faith community. Working together in a unified direction we will have greater impact on this very important public health issue."

For anyone experiencing a crisis, they can call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) and be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in their area, anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 


For more information about the Safe2Tell program go to https://safe2tell.org/


For more information on Sources of Strength go to https://sourcesofstrength.org/

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CONTACT
Annie Skinner
Colorado Attorney General’s Office
720-508-6553 or Annie.skinner@coag.gov