Kentucky gets $3.6 million federal grant for youth suicide prevention, targets five rural counties in first round of funding

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky will receive a five-year, $3,675,000 grant to help reduce suicide among Kentuckians under age 25.
Kentucky is one of 10 recipients of Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grants, from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The grant programs will begin Sept. 30 in Clinton, Hart, Hickman and Lyon counties, which were selected based on suicide-attempt rates among middle- and high- school students.
The release says additional locations will be identified in the coming years.
The award is named after the son of former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith. Garrett Lee Smith took his own life in 2004, just before his 22nd birthday. Sen. Smith proposed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which recognized suicide as the third-leading cause of death among youth 10 to 24.
Kentucky also received the grant in 2006, 2011 and 2015.

“My administration has always prioritized quality, accessible mental-health care,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news release. “The Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grant will make it easier for Kentuckians to get the help they need and deserve.”

The release says that the funding, $735,000 a year for five years, will advance the Kentucky Strategic Allies Fostering Empowerment of Today’s Youth (KY SAFETY) project. The project will help identify youth at risk for suicide and connect them with care pathways.
KY SAFETY will also implement Youth Mental Health First Aid programs; Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training, and applied suicide-intervention training in agencies that serve youth. More than 5,600 staff members of youth-serving agencies are expected to be trained in the five-year grant period.
The news release says a key project component will provide first responders with internet-equipped tablets for use during behavioral-health emergencies to help ensure near-immediate access to a clinician.
“Kentucky has a long history of working to reduce suicide risk,” said Eric Friedlander, secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “Finding new and innovative ways to reach our youth is essential to improving access to behavioral health services. Given that many of our counties are rural, the use of tablets and telehealth services represents a creative way to provide services as quickly as possible.”
The national suicide hotline number has changed.

“The goal of the grant is to support strategies that focus on the identification of youth at risk of suicide, build capacity of clinical service providers to assess, manage and treat that risk and improve the continuity of care and follow-up of youth receiving care for their suicidality,” Patti Clark, an agency assistant director and principal investigator for the project, said in the release.

At his Sept. 29 news conference, Beshear also encouraged Kentuckians to call the state’s new, confidential 988 suicide hotline if they are experiencing a mental-health crisis or considering suicide. He said there has been a 27% increase in crisis and suicide call volume since the change, and a 10% increase in text messages. He also said calls are being answered more quickly, and the abandoned-call rate is the lowest since July 2021.
Previous Article
Next Article