West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

Adolescent Suicide Prvention and Early Intervention (ASPEN) project
Garrett Lee Smith State

Acknowledging the promotion of life in our West Virginian Youth, the Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention (ASPEN) project works vigorously toward creating a comprehensive recognition and referral network in West Virginia. Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death in our West Virginian Youth ages 15-24, ranking our state at 11th in the nation for this age population. In order to combat the “silent epidemic” for adolescent suicide within our state, ASPEN provides comprehensive, multifaceted, protective measures of suicide prevention and early intervention for the adolescent population of West Virginia. Direct services of ASPEN are provided in a multitude of venues and populations in order to enhance adolescent suicide prevention by increasing awareness, screening, and access to clinical services for identified at-risk youth. Trainings are conducted to acknowledge the prevalence and significance of suicide in order to promote it as a public health concern as well as to provide for increased recognition, referral, and protective factors for both professionals and students. Education, communication, collaboration, and connections among the entities interacting with at risk youth are enhanced in order to rectify system gaps so as to facilitate a culturally competent, caring, comprehensive, sustainable suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention system of care.

West Virginia is building on its initial ASPEN experiences in expanding to additional populations of at-risk adolescents in Kanawha County, as well as new geographic regions consisting of five mostly rural counties with high incident rates. In the newly identified counties, the project proposes to serve youth in the secondary schools by increasing awareness and screening; ultimately facilitating a mobile quick response team to serve at-risk students.

Collaboration with key stakeholders has enhanced the implementation of the project as well as providing for increased efforts of sustainability. ASPEN will continue to work with the West Virginia Council for the Prevention of Suicide as a key stakeholder in the project. In addition, collaborative efforts with secondary and post-secondary school systems, child-serving agencies, non-profit menta1 health agencies, primary care clinics, and hospitals will facilitate cross-system identification, referral and response for at-risk individuals.

The evaluation component of the ASPEN project will enable progress monitoring in frequent measurement of goal and objective implementation. In addition, such measures will provide timely input of successfully carrying out project directives. Finally, results will be shared with other counties throughout West Virginia and Appalachia, as well as nationally, in order to achieve a comprehensive adolescent suicide prevention approach.