Town Hall: How Healthcare Helps Prevent Suicides

The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition will host “How Healthcare Helps Prevent Suicides,” a community town hall to discuss local efforts to implement the “Zero Suicide” model for improving healthcare support for at-risk individuals.

The town hall, at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) on September 28 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., will feature panel discussions about why suicide is a public health challenge and how the Zero Suicide model is used by healthcare systems to prevent suicide deaths.

Whole Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa will kick off the town hall with opening remarks.

Organizations serving as presenters and panelists include: Tompkins County Mental Health Services; Cayuga Health System; Cayuga Medical Associates; Guthrie Medical Group, Cortland; Cornell University; Ithaca City School District, Alcohol and Drug Council; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service (988 Call Center); Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services; Smile Through the Storms; and The Sophie Fund.

In addition, Coalition work groups will give brief presentations on their work to improve suicide data collection and analysis, prevent suicides among young people, and reduce access to lethal means within at-risk populations.

Several local mental health agencies and organizations will provide information tables with staff who can answer questions. They include: Tompkins County Whole Health; Tompkins County Office of Veterans Services; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service (988 Call Center); American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Greater Central New York; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Finger Lakes.

Zero Suicide is an emerging suicide prevention model designed to save lives by closing gaps in suicide care in healthcare as well as behavioral health settings.

The model calls for systematic use of screening for self-harm, safety planning for patients deemed at risk, referrals to appropriate levels of further care, safe transitions of care between providers, and evidence-based treatment for suicidality, among other tools.

“We recognize the critical role of healthcare in preventing suicide deaths,” said Zoe Lincoln, Whole Health Planner with Tompkins County Whole Health and Coordinator of the Tompkins County Zero Suicide Steering Committee, a collaborative group of local healthcare leaders. “The Town Hall highlights county-wide dedication to saving lives through evidence-based best practices, via the Zero Suicide Model. Together, we strive to elevate the standard of care and support for our community members in need.” 

Implementation of Zero Suicide across local healthcare is one of the objectives listed in the Coalition’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan. In 2022, leaders from community and campus healthcare providers formed the Tompkins County Zero Suicide Steering Committee to lead and coordinate efforts.

The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition was formed in 2017 and is comprised of health agencies, community organizations, and individual members who share a determination to prevent suicide deaths in the community.

“We are excited to present this Town Hall with a focus on Zero Suicide,” said Sally Manning, Racker Program Director and convenor of the Coalition. “We recognize suicide as a serious public health concern. The Coalition has a vision for our community where no lives are lost to suicide. This is a chance to learn more about suicide prevention and what we can all do to help those who may be struggling.”

The Sophie Fund has encouraged Tompkins County providers to work toward implementing the Zero Suicide model, beginning with a presentation by leading experts for healthcare leaders in October 2017. The Sophie Fund then sponsored a series of five presentations and trainings on Zero Suicide for healthcare leaders and clinicians in 2021-22.