Kentucky Dept. for Behav. Health, Dev. and Intellectual Disabilities

Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services
Garrett Lee Smith State

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults (ages 10 – 24) in the Commonwealth. Kentucky currently has the tenth highest suicide rate in the nation. The purpose of the Suicide Prevention Efforts for Adolescents in Kentucky (SPEAK) project will be to further develop Kentucky’s prevention modalities and behavioral health services system to lessen the rate of attempted and completed suicides in Kentucky. Through this project, efforts will be focused on youth and young adults – accessing them through the educational system (middle/high schools and post secondary education) and on priority populations as identified by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, which includes youth in military families and Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth. There will be focused efforts on increasing the number of persons trained to identify and refer youth at risk for suicide, increase providers trained to assess, manage and treat at-risk youth effectively, and increase the number of at-risk youth identified, referred for and receiving behavioral health services. SPEAK will build on the accomplishments of Kentucky’s 2006 – 2010 SPYCE (Suicide Prevention in Youth: A Collaborative Effort) funded project.

As a result of raised awareness of youth suicide and prevention issues and efforts during the SPYCE project, Kentucky legislators, in 2010, passed legislation mandating annual suicide prevention training or information for all public middle and high school certified staff and school students annually. Kentucky is a pioneer in this area as very few other states have mandatory education for both staff and students; however, the legislature did not provide funding for an ongoing statewide delivery system for evidence-based training and information, school-based crisis planning, increased screening and referrals, or better access to effective behavioral health/suicide prevention resources and practices for at-risk students.

Building on SPYCE efforts, SPEAK will work Community Mental Health Centers, school districts and child/youth serving agencies within two geographic regions of the state that serve communities with a higher population of military families to build enhanced structures for regional delivery systems for training, crisis planning, screening/referrals, evidence-based practices and increased resources for at-risk students (including LGBT youth). These regions are Pennyrile, which serves the Fort Campbell Army base in Christian County and Lincoln Trail which serves the Fort Knox Army base in Hardin County. Kentucky is home to nearly 64,000 military personnel. One recent study of children in military families showed rates of emotional and behavioral difficulties at rates above national averages. Funds will be used to support the following objectives: Evidence-based suicide prevention training for providers serving youth; Service expansion; School and community based crisis prevention/intervention and postvention planning; and Increased public/private collaboration among youth-serving institutions and child serving agencies.