The Oregon Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan was signed by the Oregon Health Authority and submitted to the Legislature in January 2016. It established the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide (Alliance) which is charged with advising the Oregon Health Authority on statewide youth suicide prevention and intervention policy, and implementation of the YSIPP. Members are appointed by OHA and include leaders from the public and private sectors, legislators, subject matter experts, suicide attempt and loss survivors, and young people from across the state of Oregon.
Staffing and coordination of the Alliance was contracted to the Association of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs (AOCMHP) in the fall of 2017. This partnership has ensured that efforts of the Alliance are coordinated with Oregon’s local Mental Health Authorities who are responsible for planning and management of mental health, addictions and developmental disabilities programs across the state.
OHA also contracted with the University of Oregon Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Lab to evaluate the YSIPP. Together the Alliance, the UO lab, and OHA have formed a Community Academic Partnership which incorporates an implementation science approach to preventing youth and young adult suicide. This partnership works closely with state and national leaders in the field, such as Lines for Life, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Oregon Pediatric Society, Oregon Family Support Network and Youth ERA. The engagement of leaders from the Oregon State Legislature, including Alliance member Sen. Sara Gelser, and key decision-makers from the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority have been essential to helping the Alliance develop and support suicide prevention policy and practice.
The Alliance also prioritized engaging youth, young adults and parents who struggle with suicidal thoughts, attempt survivors and people who have lost a loved one to suicide. This has ensured that the Alliance’s priorities are grounded in the real-life experiences of the people and systems most impacted by the tragedy of youth suicide.
Jennifer Fraga, MSW
Suicide Prevention Project Specialist
Policy Goals and Accomplishments
To achieve their policy goals, Alliance members determined that they needed to address fragmentation of suicide prevention efforts across the state. This fragmentation was partially a result of chronic underfunding of state and local suicide prevention efforts, differing structures and staffing for suicide prevention at a county level, and a lack of a shared communication approach. An early task of the Alliance and lab was to map the field, identify suicide prevention coordinators and regional coalitions, which can be found here. To see more accomplishments from 2017 – 2020, go here.
Key Policy Accomplishments of the Alliance include:
Successfully advocating for passage of bills a in 2019 to establish the Alliance in statute (SB707), refine postvention legislation (HB918 and HB485, and require suicide prevention plans in schools (SB52).
Suicide Prevention Funding
Supported passage of OHA’s POP resulting in a first-time $6 million investment in suicide prevention and $4 million for school based mental health.
Provided guidance on administrative rules and feedback on implementation of suicide prevention legislation on HB3090, HB3091, HB2023, SB52 and SB981/485.
The Alliance has served as an incubator for new initiatives and innovation. In its first two years it:
Led implementation of Connect Postvention and designed statewide roll-out.
Sources of Strength
Coordinated pilots for Sources of Strength which later resulted in a statewide roll-out of the program.
Family Acceptance Project
Brought the Family Acceptance Project, designed to promote family acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth and mitigate family rejection, a key risk factor for suicide, to hundreds of Oregonians through an institute and the suicide prevention conference
The Alliance, using best-practices for suicide safer messaging and drawing from the YSIPP, developed three core principles for public messaging about youth suicide:
Promote a sense of hope and highlight resilience.
Make it safe to ask for help and ensure that the right help is available at the right time.
Engage individuals and communities in the healing process after an attempt or suicide.
Highlights of Alliance Activities from 2020
Legislative Activity and Administrative Rules
• Partnered with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in January to meet with majority of Oregon legislators or their staff to highlight policy needs to prevent suicide
• Submitted legislative concept for 2021 session that will require behavioral health workforce to receive continuing education on suicide prevention, intervention and management. Rep. Salinas agreed to be the lead sponsor and invited Alliance to testify at the House Behavioral Health Committee during Legislative Days
• Partnered with Lines for Life to submit legislative concept to include children under age 10 in the statewide suicide prevention plan (YSIPP)
• Provided feedback to ODE on OAR’s for Adi’s Act, SB52. Alliance youth and members with lived experience advocated for rules to address communication between schools and health systems
• Provided feedback on OAR’s for postvention legislation (SB485 and SB918)
Advising the Oregon Health Authority and other State Agencies on strategies and to address suicide intervention and prevention and Development of 5-Year YSIPP
• Lethal Means Access workgroup advised Lines for Life and OHA to conduct focus groups with firearm owners to inform how best to advance cultural norms around safe storage and reduce stigma around mental health safety planning. The resulting report Oregon Gun Owners on Firearm Safety and Suicide Prevention outlines 6 recommendations and resulted in formation of Oregon Firearm Owners Gun Safety Coalition
• Monitored implementation of HB 2023, 3090, and 3091, identified barriers and made a request for OHA to resurvey hospitals
• Submitted letters to OHA and Rep. Keny-Guyer mapping system challenges (see graphic below) in monitoring and supporting transitions of care legislation and recommendations to improve implementation
• Provided recommendations for new and continued Alliance membership appointments
• Co-developed LGBTQ mini-grant application and review process to create low-barrier access to support during COVID crisis
• Advised OHA staff on development of an adult suicide prevention plan
• Submitted letter to OHA and legislators supporting recommendations of OHA’s 2020 SB48 report
• Made recommendations to OHA for new and continued Membership Appointments
• With additional staff support, increased involvement in Alliance by youth and young adults
• Collaborated with UO Suicide Prevention Lab and OHA regarding the structure, themes and priorities of next YSIPP. Informed recommendations in YSIPP by connecting lab with key informants across state and focus groups with Alliance members and affiliates
• Strengthened partnerships to ensure Alliance advice and policy work is informed by subject matter experts and people with lived experience. (AOCMHP, Lines for Life, AFSP, Youth ERA, Oregon Family Support Network, University of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon)
• Advocated for and received funding for Alliance to conduct focused work to address racism and equity in suicide prevention efforts and amplify perspectives of BIPOC, Disabled, Frontier, Rural communities
• Advised ODE/OHA and helped develop resources and guidance for schools develop suicide prevention plans that comply with the law and the spirit of Adis’ Act, SB52
• Staff/Members represent Alliance on School Safety Task Force, State Health Improvement Plan, Children’s System Advisory Council
Communications, Capacity Building and Connecting the Field to Decrease Fragmentation of Efforts and Prevent Suicide
• Strengthened partnerships with key organizations to inform policy work and promote effective practice. (Lines for Life, AFSP Partnership, ODE, Youth ERA, Oregon Family Support Network, University of Oregon Community Mental Health Programs, Oregon Pediatric Society)
• Conducted six webinars for regional suicide coalitions to provide guidance re safe messaging during COVID, increase communication and collaboration between local and state efforts and share effective suicide prevention efforts across Oregon
• Presented LGBTQ+ mini-grant project for n Prevention Institute’s national webinar: Promoting Connectedness for Trauma and Suicide Prevention.
• Promote the Big 7 suicide prevention training initiatives and engage in learning community
• Complete media kit available to regional coalitions to promote safe messaging in the media about suicide, support policy work of Alliance and amplify stories of hope, help and healing