TXT4LIFE Makes it's debut for county teens

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TXT4LIFE Makes it's debut for county teens

Post by psyquestor » Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:24 pm

County hopes to reach teens in crisis through texting

http://www.pinejournal.com/event/articl ... roup/News/

Teens who are contemplating suicide will now be able to access help in the same way they communicate with their friends – through text messaging.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal

Talk about it
Teens who are contemplating suicide will now be able to access help in the same way they communicate with their friends – through text messaging.

In a report to the Carlton County Board on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Director Dave Lee informed commissioners that the county has been awarded a $480,000 grant through United States Health and Human Services that will pave the way for a regional “TXT4Life” program.

The county first applied for a grant to get the program under way three years ago but was unsuccessful. Lee said the state of Minnesota has also applied for grant funding for a similar program for the last four years without any luck.

This year was apparently the charm, he said, adding that the county, in partnership with HIS-Crisis Connection, worked to restructure the program proposal to make it more cost effective and with less duplication of services, basically by utilizing computer software to transition the state’s current suicide prevention line into a texting line as well. He said young people who are feeling suicidal can text the specified number and be connected directly with a suicide prevention counselor for assistance. He said he also hopes to set up a series of semi-formal networks within the local schools themselves so students can be directed for followup with a trusted adult in their district.

“Despite all of our efforts,” Lee said, “Carlton County, along with the rest of northeastern Minnesota, still has a higher than average suicide rate.”

Lee went on to say that Carlton County has been more proactive than most, however, and when the state of Minnesota chose not to apply for federal grant money to target suicide prevention in middle- and high school-age children, Carlton County decided to go after it on its own.

He said that the “TXT4LIFE” project makes perfect sense, since young people have moved from calling or online chatting to texting.

“The statistics are overwhelming – 10 to 1 – in support of the fact that today’s kids don’t call, they text,” he said, citing reasons of privacy and the inability to vocalize terrifying feelings to adults as reasons most young people would prefer to text – not call – for help.

Now the goal is to utilize the grant funding to pilot the program in Carlton County at the start of school this September in order to train personnel in all of its schools and youth-serving agencies on how to engage kids in crisis via texting. If successful, Lee said the next step would be to expand the initiative to the entire surrounding seven-county region of northeast Minnesota.

Lee said the county has sampled the concept in Moose Lake since July 1, and a number of calls have already been fielded, one of them with “fairly major” significance.

“It’s all about lowering the threshold for kids to reach out for help,” explained Lee. “Kids who are in such intense pain are impulsive, and we figure we have, at the very most, 10 minutes to get through to them and try to help.”

The board unanimously approved a motion to accept the grant.

In other business, commissioners got their first glimpse of what next year’s budget might look like. County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert said the county will experience a $613,000 cut in state aid for both 2011 and 2012, and $1.8 million will also be cut at the county level in the form of market value (homestead) credits.

“There’s little doubt about it, legislative cuts will cause property tax increases,” said Gassert, adding that, in particular, anything that is non-homesteaded will likely go up significantly.

Various department heads also explained some of the proposed changes in their departments. Sheriff Kelly Lake said the biggest increase in the sheriff’s department budget is for boarding prisoners in other counties due to lack of available cells locally. She said she is proposing that last year’s budget of $120,000 be increased by $80,000 since the number of prisoners having to be boarded outside the jail is increasing significantly, averaging 10-20 per day.

Lee said the area of public health and human services continues to be an area of focus for state and federal funding reductions, though the service demand continues to go up. He said expenses in his department are expected to go up by 1 percent for 2012, though he anticipates an 8 percent decrease in state and federal funding.

One of the areas he said is showing increased need is jail nursing, due to the ever-widening range of complex psychological issues and complicated physical issues among prisoners.

“It can be such a huge liability if jail medical issues aren’t taken care of properly,” stated Lake, adding that many of the medical and psychological issues of prisoners are beyond the expertise of the jail staff to deal with.

Lee said his department may have to add staff in that area if that trend continues.

Economic Development Director Pat Oman indicated he would like to propose that $200,404 be added to the county’s 2012 budget to cover the cost of personnel in his department. Since those positions were funded in the past through the economic development fund, there has never been a line item in the county’s budget for that purpose prior to this time. Oman said the responsibilities of his department are growing as the need for assistance with economic development grows. He reminded commissioners that the balance of expenses in his department continues to be covered through IRRRB funding, though he warned, “IRRRB money isn’t going to be around forever.”
Proud Army Mom

I thought I would lay down and die after losing my Son to suicide.
Instead I chose to fight the monster that killed him.

Hold On, Pain Ends

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