Grant Update, February 2011

The GLS grant team is celebrating the success of submitting an application to continue funding of the project for an additional three years. If funded the project will expand to counties in the Western region and South Eastern Region of the state as well as continue in the current project’s three North Eastern Counties. At the time of submission, the team secured letters of interest from 12 practices in these new regions. Additionally, if funded the next phase of the project will also focus on a technical assistance model in which regional coordinators will facilitate the implementation of the behavioral health screen and facilitate linkages between primary care providers and local mental health agencies. Lastly, the next phase of the project will also address the special needs of LGBTQ youth by targeting primary care practices that cater to this population and by including experts of this field on the project’s advisory board. In an effort to revitalize the county task forces, a series of four regional workshops were held in Wilkes-Barre, King of Prussia, Norristown, and Pittsburg. Over 130 people attended the workshops. The workshops include speakers from Child Death Review, Student Assistance Programs (SAP), and team members of the GLS project. A special thanks to Paula McCommons, Beth Sprentz, and Jamie Covaleski for making these workshops possible!This February the project’s executive team attended SAMHSA’s Garrett Lee Smith Grantee Prevention Conference in Baltimore, MD. This year’s conference focused on sustainability of GLS projects, ensuring that suicide prevention efforts continue in a state even after funding ends. In addition, the conference offered a number of presentations that focused on addressing suicide in special populations: Native Americans, LGBTQ youth, and Veterans and their families. Drs. Matthew Wintersteen and Guy Diamond’s presentation on Pennsylvania’s GLS project in primary care was well received by the other grantees.Currently, over 650 adolescents have been screened in the project’s ten participating practices, resulting in 115 adolescents being identified as at risk for suicide.


Grant Update, November 2010

The GLS grant team is celebrating the successes of finishing up year two of the project. This past October began the third and final year of the current project. The September 2010 issue of the PA CASSP Newsletter  provides a great overview of our current progress. Check it out here!
The team has also been busy formulating a concept to renew the grant and take the project to scale utilizing a technical assistance model.A number of trainings and webinars funded by the grant were provided to primary care and behavioral health providers across Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Schuylkill counties this past fall:


  • Melanie Gold in affiliation with the PA Academy of Family Physicians conducted a webinar entitled “Using Motivational Interviewing to Facilitate Adolescent Mental Health Related Behavior Change in the Primary Care Setting.”
  • On Suicide Awareness Day, Dr. David Brent in affiliation with PA American Academy of Pediatrics hosted a teleconference entitled “Parents are Partners: How to Help Parents to Help their Depressed and Suicidal Teen.”
  • Kim Polling offered training on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in September.
  • Drs. Guy Diamond and Suzanne Levy hosted a webinar in August that detailed the basics of Attachment Based Family Therapy.


A current focus of the GLS team is revitalizing the county task forces. As a part of this effort a series of workshops were developed early this fall and are now being conducted throughout the state. So far, the workshops are being very well-received! The workshops include speakers from Child Death Review, Student Assistance Programs (SAP), and team members of the GLS project. For more information on the workshops and to register.

We are also pleased to announce the addition of four more participating primary care clinics! Three additional practices in Luzerne County and one additional practice in Schuylkill County have joined the project and will begin using the behavioral health screen- primary care (BHS-PC) with their adolescent patient (ages 14-24). The addition of these practices with the other seven existing sites (10 sites in total) will assist in reaching the project’s goal of screening 1,000 adolescents before the grant’s end. Currently, over 430 adolescents have been screened in the project’s ten participating practices, resulting in 46 adolescents being identified as at risk for suicide.


Grant Update, June 3, 2009

Kudos to Lackawanna, Luzerne and Schuylkill counties for their efforts around the implementation of the Garrett Lee Smith Grant,Youth Suicide Prevention in Primary Care. Since the state received the grant in October a core workgroup has been meeting weekly by phone conference and monthly face to face to oversee the implementation process.
One of the main objectives for the first year of the grant is to partner with primary care facilities who would be willing to participate in the use of a web-based tool designed to screen for suicidality in youth ages 14-24, as well as for other behavior health concerns such as depression, substance abuse, and high risk behaviors.

We are pleased to announce that Lackawanna County has partnered with the Scranton Primary Health Center and the Scranton Counseling Center. Luzerne County has partnered with Knoxen Rural Health Clinic and several behavioral health providers. Schuylkill County has partnered with Black Creek Health Center and several behavioral health providers. Each Primary Care Center participated in a lunch time seminar with Dr. Matthew Wintersteen (Thomas Jefferson University) entitled, “Screening for Suicide Risk in the Pediatric Primary Care Setting,” which provided an overview of assessment techniques for youth who are suicidal. We had a great turn out at each site, which also involved the participation of behavioral health providers who will partner with the PCP and helps to facilitate communication between physical health and behavioral health providers.

In addition to the trainings for primary care physicians, the grant is also funding free training for behavioral health providers. Kim Poling, L.C.S.W. of the Star Center at the University of Pittsburgh facilitated the first series on April 17, 2009 at the Quality Inn in Pittston. Ms. Poling has extensive training and experience working with suicidal youth, particularly in the area of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The second session of this series was held May 8 and a third session will be held October 16, 2009.

Guy Diamond, Ph.D. and  Suzanne Levy, Ph.D. will begin another series of trainings for behavioral health providers. Their series will be focused on Attachment Based Family Therapy (ABFT) for suicidal youth and begins June 29, 2009. The second session will be July 20, 2009 and the third session will be in November 2009 (specific date to be determined).

Efforts are also underway to gather information from physicians on the concerns, needs, and strengths of the primary care community related to working with adolescent patients with behavioral health problems in general and suicidality specifically. To date over 7500 surveys have been sent to physicians across the commonwealth. If you are a physician, please consider taking this brief online survey.


Grant Update, March 30, 2009

The three counties involved in the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention in Primary Care grant (Lackawanna, Luzerne and Schuylkill) are in the process of identifying primary care and behavioral health practices who will partner with the counties and each other as pilot projects in the implementation of the grant’s objectives. Participation in the grant will involve trainings with staff, implementation of the web-based behavioral health screening tool, and increasing collaboration between primary care practices and key mental health partners. Benefits include participation in the development of a national model for youth suicide prevention in primary care, access to web-based behavioral screening tool, and training and technical assistance. In addition, training on cognitive behavioral therapy for youth at risk for suicide will be held in April and May. Attendance is limited and by invitation only, targeting clinicians who are partnering with the grant.


Youth Suicide Prevention Grant Kick-Off Events Held

Efforts are under way in Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Schuylkill counties to implement the recently-awarded Garrett Lee Smith Grant: “Youth Suicide Prevention in Primary Care.” On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, Luzerne and LackawannaCounties held their first combined public awareness meeting to provide key community stakeholders with information regarding the grant recently awarded to the commonwealth. A similar event was held on Friday, December 5, 2008, in Schuylkill County. More than 70 people attended each event including representatives from the county commissioners office, human services departments, juvenile justice, clergy, police, public and private insurance companies, primary care facilities, emergency rooms, family members, advocates, education and behavioral health.

The two-hour lunch discussion was held at the Tribeca Convention Center in Pittston on Tuesday, and again at Pine View Acres on Friday in Pottsville. Opening remarks were given at the Tribeca Convention Center by Teresa Osborne, Director of Lackawanna county Human Services Department and Joseph DeVizia, Director of Luzerne County Human Services Department. Friday’s opening remarks were given by Dan McGrory, Administrator of Schuylkill County MH/MR/D&A program.
Sherry Peters, project director from the state Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, shared information on the national need for youth suicide prevention and gave an overview of the grant. Guy Diamond, project co-chair, provided information on the central aims of the grant such as the linkage between physical health and behavioral health services, the benefit of the screening tool to be used in primary care settings, and training opportunities for those who are involved in the lives of youth.

Participants were able to ask questions and share any concerns related to barriers, challenges and possible solutions. Each event also resulted in commitments from some participants to join their local suicide prevention task force. Partnerships began to take shape between local mental health agencies, primary care physicians and behavioral health as they began to discuss their roles in the grant moving forward.

Reported by Denise Short, Mental Health Program Representative, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.


Pennsylvania Awarded Youth Suicide Prevention Grant

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently awarded a youth suicide prevention grant to the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The award is for $500,000 per year for three years, for a total of $1.5 million. The grants are authorized as part of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, sponsored in Congress by Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon who lost his son to suicide in 2003.

The Pennsylvania grant project, entitled “Suicide Prevention in Primary Care,” will build a suicide prevention program for youth ages 14-24 within the primary care medical system that will provide screening, assessment, family engagement, and linkage to treatment. It will be piloted in Schuylkill , Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties , three counties with some of the highest rates for suicide death and hospitalization for self-injury in Pennsylvania .

These three pilot projects will focus on five primary objectives: 1) create a partnership within each county of policy makers, medical and behavioral health care providers, local suicide task forces, family members, and local medical and behavioral health insurance companies; 2) provide a youth suicide “gatekeeper” training program for participating pediatricians, family physicians and nurse practitioners; 3) provide medical practitioners free access to a web-based, patient self-report screening tool to assess for suicide and related risk factors; 4) increase the integration of behavioral health services with physical health services; and 5) provide clinical training in best practice therapy models for youth who are suicidal to the behavioral health providers who will receive referrals of these at-risk youth.

In its grant proposal, Pennsylvania documented the need to address youth suicide prevention. From 2003 to 2005, 514 Pennsylvania youths committed suicide. Youth suicides have occurred in every county over the last five years. Of the counties with population densities great enough to calculate suicide rates, 53% in the 14-24 year-old range have rates greater than the national average. Furthermore, 15% of PA counties have rates at least twice the national average. Clearly, the proposal said, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needs a better system of early identification, assessment, triage and treatment of adolescents ages 14 to 25 at risk for suicide, in order to reduce the number of deaths and hospitalization for self-injury in the Commonwealth.”

Representatives from the mental health, substance abuse, juvenile justice, child welfare, and education systems in each county support the goals of this grant. Each county has well-developed primary care systems, adequate mental health services, appropriate emergency room services, and has access to inpatient psychiatric hospital beds. Two of the counties have very strong suicide prevention task forces. These groups will be active participants in moving the proposed projects forward.

The overarching goal of the “Suicide Prevention in Primary Care” project is to identify barriers, solutions and resources that will allow the state to expand the primary care suicide prevention project across the commonwealth. As the projects are developed in the three pilot counties, progress reports will be posted here, along with resources and other information that will help other counties think about how they could replicate the project.


Grant Summary: Youth Suicide Prevention in Primary Care