ST. JOHNSBURY – St. Johnsbury Pediatrics has received a $5,000 COVID Relief Suicide Safer Care Mini-Grant. The grant program, which is supported by COVID Relief and Carry-forward funds from the Department of Mental Health, will help providers at St. Johnsbury Pediatrics in supporting their patients, as well as making referrals when a higher level of care is warranted.

The Mini-Grant program, which was developed by the Center for Health and Learning/VT Suicide Prevention Center, will engage staff in training and assessment of depression, suicidality and safety planning. It will also help strengthen workflows and implement suicide specific protocols.

One of the goals of the grant is to increase suicide screening by implementing the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (CSSRS), a much more in-depth screening tool.

“When someone reports suicidal thoughts, we want to gather more information to help them stay safe; the CSSRS helps us triage patients in an evidenced-based way,” St. Johnsbury Pediatrics Behavioral Health Specialist Allison Hansen said.

Another goal is to work with staff on responding to patients who show signs of contemplating self-harm or suicide.

“Suicide is preventable and requires a team; training staff to feel comfortable and skilled to respond is key in helping patients recognize treatment options and support,” Hansen added.

Other local grant recipients include Northern Counties Health Care (NCHC) Centers in Island Pond, Concord, Danville and St. Johnsbury. St. Johnsbury Pediatrics, which is collaborating with NCHC, is also working with Northeast Kingdom Human Services. The team includes community health workers, behavior health specialists, and members of leadership staff from all agencies.

This COVID Relief Suicide Safer Care Mini-Grant is a state-wide initiative, with six designated mental health agencies, 17 primary care practices, two State Agency departments. Blueprint For Health is also participating. The grant involves primary care as a unique approach to reach wider populations that may not be accessing mental health care.

You are not alone. If you need help, text VT to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. More information on suicide prevention can be found at mentalhealth.vermont.gov/suicide-prevention.

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