Adams State receives grant for suicide prevention


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently awarded Adams State College a three-year, $225,000 Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant. Gregg Elliott, director of the college's Counseling & Career Services Department, said the grant will aid in fostering a campus culture of help-seeking and reporting.

"We hope to reduce the stigma associated with depression, substance abuse, and suicidal behaviors, and to encourage people to become aware of warning signs," he said.

ASC Director of Counseling and Career Services Gregg Elliott

One of the program's first activities is an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop, scheduled for Sept. 22-23. Open to students, faculty, staff, and community members, the event is co-sponsored by Adams State, the San Luis Valley Comprehensive Mental Health Center, and Trinidad State Junior College. For more information and to register for the training, please contact Elliott at 587-7746.

One of 21 colleges and universities across the nation to receive the grant, Adams State will use it to support suicide prevention, including building infrastructure, conducting suicide prevention gatekeeper trainings across campus, and networking with mental health providers locally and regionally.

In addition, the grant will fund a full-time outreach coordinator/prevention specialist who will work closely with Adams State's Campus Health & Safety Committee. That group is responsible for identifying and intervening with campus constituents who may be becoming a threat to themselves or to others. The OC/PS will serve as a case manager for those who've been identified through the system, and conduct suicide prevention trainings and awareness projects on campus.

Other grant-supported activities include:

  • Expanding Adams State's existing prevention policy and developing a comprehensive crisis response plan
  • Developing trainers for ASIST and SafeTALK to increase the number of faculty, staff, and student leaders able to intervene with a suicidal student
  • Increasing awareness of suicide prevention resources
  • Presenting annual mental health and alcohol screening events on campus to identify at-risk students and raise campus awareness of prevention issues
  • Building partnerships with on-campus groups (Gay-Straight Alliance, Student Veterans, the Student Life Cross-Cultural Center) to promote resources for high-risk populations

Colorado has the sixth highest suicide rate in the nation: 18.4/100,000 in 2009. The San Luis Valley's rate of over 28/100,000 in 2009 leads Colorado. SLV risk factors include rural, isolated communities, high poverty and low education levels, and high use of alcohol and drugs.

By Julie Waechter