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RE1J increases its local suicide prevention efforts

Two new programs introduced

By Olivia Lueckemeyer

In an effort to further address the issue of suicide in the valley, the Gunnison Watershed School District has introduced two additional programs to its ongoing curriculum. Over the past year, three suicides of high school aged students have occurred valley-wide.

A $3,000 grant from the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado (SPCC) has allowed the enactment of Sources of Strength, a peer-led suicide prevention program that will operate throughout the school year. Student peers, nominated by staff members, and adult advisers will organize activities to discuss the positive support available to young people valley-wide. Training will begin in March, and the program will be up and running following spring break.

“Sources of Strength gives students the power to break the code of silence between young people and adults, and to enhance the positive support systems out there,” Sarah Macort, Gunnison High School counselor, explained to the RE1J board at a meeting on Monday, February 8.

The Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Project (GSCAPP) has agreed to fund a portion of the program over the next three years. The program costs $5,000 annually. Macort, with the intention of keeping the program in operation for years to come, plans to secure future support through various fundraising efforts, such as the Out of the Darkness Walk, set to take place May 1.

In addition to Sources of Strength, the Second Wind Fund is also newly available to students. Last fall the non-profit organization reached out to Macort about a possible partnership in the wake of the rise in suicide in the valley. The Second Wind Fund is a free service that provides access to therapy for financially burdened students at risk for suicide.

“When a counselor does a suicide risk assessment, and they are concerned about a student’s risk, the Second Wind Fund is a resource for students to go and get therapy,” Stacey Petersen, Crested Butte Secondary School counselor, explained to the board. “They get up to 12 sessions for free, and what is really exciting is we now have a Second Wind counselor in the valley.”

Additional staff has also been instituted to strengthen the district’s suicide prevention efforts. The recent mill levy passing (Fund 26) has allowed for the hiring of a counselor at each school site, something that the district has lacked in the past. Two district psychologists have also been hired to provide mental health services and special education testing district-wide.

Superintendent Doug Tredway commended Petersen and Macort for their efforts in providing resources to prevent suicide and self harm district-wide.

“I really appreciate your leadership and the collaboration with the community,” Tredway said. “This is a tough role and you’ve done a great job in helping us serve all students and ensure that all students are successful.”

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