Why We Support the Zero Suicide Model

The Tompkins County Legislature passed a resolution a year ago to support the Zero Suicide Model, calling on local healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers to follow the model’s systematic clinical approach to preventing suicides.

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Members of the Cayuga Health Partners Care Coordination Team

Cayuga Health Partners, a Physician-Hospital Organization comprising more than 40 medical practices and 200 physicians and a leader of healthcare delivery in Tompkins County, pledged to become a “Zero Suicide Champion” with the goal of implementing the suicide prevention model in our local healthcare network.

That pledge was made during a June 2018 meeting of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition, formed in 2017 by more than 30 community-based organizations. Others announcing their commitment included Cayuga Medical Center, Tompkins County Mental Health Services, Alcohol & Drug Council of Tompkins County, Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, Cornell Health of Cornell University, and Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca.

The Zero Suicide Model involves a foundational belief that suicide deaths for those engaged in the healthcare system are preventable. It is clear that safer suicide care is in the best interest of our patient population. I know for myself and my team, we all want to go to bed at night knowing we’ve done everything in our power to support the well being of the communities we serve.

The case for Zero Suicide is compelling. The New York State Office of Mental Health has released data showing that an overwhelming number of those who die by suicide are often already engaged in health systems. More than 80 percent of people who die by suicide have had health care visits in the prior 12 months—often more recently than that. These findings are consistent with national data.

Making the commitment to become a Zero Suicide Champion was the easy part. Now, utilizing the specific strategies and tools available free of charge to practices and providers nationwide through the Zero Suicide framework, Cayuga Health Partners is working to prevent suicides while improving the care for those who seek help.

Cayuga Health Partners is working in collaboration with Ithaca’s Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in an effort to encourage individual practices and providers to embrace the Zero Suicide Model. In the fall of 2018, we launched a series of Lunch & Learn events featuring presentations about the model by SPCS Executive Director Lee-Ellen Marvin. To date, more than 60 percent of the primary care practices in the network have opened their doors to the presentations and discussions about the role they can play in suicide prevention. Members of Cayuga Health Partners have also played a role in supporting our partner organization, Cayuga Medical Center, in its own implementation of the Zero Suicide Model.

Cayuga Health Partners (formerly called Cayuga Area Plan/Preferred) is a partnership of the Cayuga Area Physicians Alliance (CAPA) and Cayuga Medical Center. Our network mission is to unify member organizations in the pursuit of high quality, accessible, and cost-effective healthcare for the population of patients we serve. In efforts to accomplish this, Cayuga Health Partners is a physician-led, physician-driven effort combining evidence-based best practices and innovative data collection technology in a way that aligns physician incentives and community partnerships to drive improvement in clinical quality.

For more information about the Zero Suicide Model, go to: http://zerosuicide.sprc.org/

—By Emily Mallar

Emily Mallar is the director of Care Management at Cayuga Health Partners

Launching Cornell’s Comprehensive Review of Student Mental Health

In the six years that I’ve been at Cornell University, we have seen an unprecedented growth in the need for campus mental health services. While the Cornell administration has been extremely generous in increasing our clinical resources in recent years, it remains a challenge to keep pace with the growing need for care. And we’re not alone: universities across the country are struggling with similar challenges.

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Michael Hogan, leader of External Review Team

Beginning in 2018, I was part of many campus conversations—with students, colleagues, and campus leaders, including President Martha E. Pollack and Vice President Ryan Lombardi—about the need to find new ways to engage our community in addressing the environmental factors contributing to student distress, and to seek new perspectives on the services and resources available to students on campus.

In September 2018, these conversations and others led President Pollack to commit the university to a Comprehensive Review of Student Mental Health, to begin in 2019.

The Campus Health Executive Committee (CHEC) oversaw the development of the review’s scope and planning during the Fall 2018 semester. Feedback was solicited from a wide range of student, staff, and faculty stakeholders, including members of the university-wide Coalition on Mental Health. The consensus was that the comprehensive review should focus on two themes: how to meet the growing clinical needs of students facing mental health problems, and how to improve the campus environment and culture to better support student mental health.

In Spring 2019, CHEC announced the members of the two groups charged with conducting the review: an internal university Mental Health Review Committee tasked with examining Cornell’s academic and social environment, climate, and culture related to mental health, and an External Review Team responsible for reviewing the university’s clinical services and campus-based strategies.

The internal committee, made up of 13 students, faculty, and staff, is led by Marla Love, senior associate dean of students in the Office of the Dean of Students, and Miranda Swanson, associate dean for Student Services in the College of Engineering.  Love and Swanson are seasoned student affairs professionals who are relatively new to Cornell, bringing a fresh perspective to the review process. Love joined Cornell in October 2017 after serving for 15 years at various institutions across the country including Scripps College and Phillips (Andover) Academy, and most recently at Azusa Pacific University. Swanson came to Cornell in December 2017 from the University of Chicago, where she spent 16 years as dean of students in the Physical Sciences Division and working with graduate students in the Humanities Division.

Members of the internal team include Catherine Thrasher-Carroll, mental health promotion program director for Cornell Health’s Skorton Center for Health Initiatives; among the four students in the group is Chelsea Kiely ‘20, of the College of Arts and Sciences, who is president of Cornell Minds Matter, a student mental health promotion organization.

The External Review Team, comprised of three highly respected leaders in the field of mental health, is led by Michael Hogan, who served as mental health commissioner in New York, Connecticut, and Ohio over a span of 25 years. He is a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s executive committee, and was a developer of the Zero Suicide Model for healthcare. Hogan chaired President George W. Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and has served on the board of the Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits healthcare organizations and programs in the United States.

The other members of the external team are Karen Singleton, associate medical director and chief of Mental Health and Counseling Services at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MIT Medical; and Henry Chung, senior medical director of Behavioral Health Integration Strategy at the Care Management Organization of Montefiore Health System, and professor of psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Listening tours and focus groups will be held through the Fall 2019 semester, and the final report of findings and recommendations will be submitted in Spring 2020. Updates about the reviewers’ process and progress—in addition to the final report—will be posted on the Mental Health Review website.

I have also asked the members of both review teams to provide ongoing feedback to Cornell’s leadership as the review proceeds, including recommendations specific to our work at Cornell Health.

It is important for the Cornell community to note that we will not be waiting for the completion of the review to begin implementing important changes to our clinical services. A new counseling appointment model—which will include brief same-day appointments, and more options for follow-up care—will begin in Fall 2019. We look forward to the opportunity to gain valuable feedback and to identify opportunities for improvement.

I am grateful to President Pollack and Vice President Lombardi for prioritizing this university-wide review in support of student campus health. And I am confident that the review will result in a healthier and more supportive campus environment with improved support resources and clinical services for our students.

—By Kent Bullis

Kent Bullis, MD, is the executive director of Cornell Health

Photo credit: Suicide Prevention Resource Center (video screenshot)

She Means Business!

Are you a teenaged girl between ages 13-16 who would like to start your own business someday? Yes, you can do it! Sign up for the She Means Business summer camp, a week-long entrepreneurial training program specifically designed for young women and hosted by Alternatives Federal Credit Union.

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She Means Business 2018 workshop

Alternatives believes that all young women should have access to the tools that will make them successful in today’s economy—and, moreover, that our entire community benefits when they do. The She Means Business summer camp takes place from July 22-26 at the Alternatives main branch at 125 North Fulton Street in Ithaca.

She Means Business participants learn about the myriad steps involved in developing a small business, from evaluating business ideas to building financial projections to retail pricing. During the workshop, students have the opportunity to learn from successful, local female business owners from across our community.

She Means Business culminates in a final presentation of the participants’ business development plans to a mock funders’ panel. Panelists provide individualized feedback to help the young women take the next steps toward entrepreneurship. Not only does this workshop educate local young women about entrepreneurship and offer them hands-on experience developing their business ideas, it also facilitates a network of local businesswomen of all ages who can offer their support and expertise as these young women navigate the business world.

It is our hope that through providing opportunities for education, feedback, and networking, She Means Business participants will feel empowered and obtain the practical knowledge they need to succeed in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

This Alternatives workshop stems from a partnership with Girls Mean Business, a local initiative focused on empowering young women through entrepreneurship courses. In 2016, Alternatives and Girls Mean Business teamed up and brought together the expertise of Kathleen Clark, Alternatives’ Business Development Manager, and Bevi Wallenstein, entrepreneur and founder of Girls Mean Business. Each year since, we have continued our partnership and renewed our dedication to bring this level of education to our community.

The cost of enrolling in She Means Business is $150.00, which includes lunch and snacks for the five-day duration of the program. Scholarships are available!

Click here to register for the She Means Business summer camp July 22-26.

For information about scholarships, contact Kathleen Clark at kclark@alternatives.org.

Click here if you would like to make a financial donation toward the future success of She Means Business. Community support helps us continue this workshop in years to come!

—By Grace Rychwalski

Grace Rychwalski is a Social Media & Grant Specialist at Alternatives Federal Credit Union

Photo credit: Jamie Love Photography

Winnie, We’ll Miss You!

There’s a Cornell University student who Ithaca will dearly miss when she leaves town and goes out to make the rest of the world a better place. Her name is Winnie Ho.

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Winnie Ho at Cornell University’s 2019 graduation ceremonies

Since arriving from Syosset, Long Island, in 2016, Ho, 22, has worked on the ground with countless community organizations on issues such as mental health, suicide prevention, homelessness, substance use, and science education. She has served as a volunteer with multiple organizations, spearheaded numerous fundraisers and events, and supported students pursuing community engagement as an Engaged Ambassador with the Office of Engagement Initiatives. She has co-delivered the keynote speech at the “2019 What’s Great in Our State” mental health conference hosted by the New York State Office of Mental Health.

We are very grateful for Ho’s indispensable contributions to The Sophie Fund. For example, in her role as vice president of Service and then president of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Gamma Chapter, Ho marshaled volunteers from APO as well as numerous other student groups to support The Sophie Fund’s annual cupcake contest and related fundraising.

Besides helping run the mid-October event in the Ithaca Commons, Ho’s army of good Samaritans collected monies that The Sophie Fund passed on to local mental health organizations—more than $500 donated to the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in 2017, and $1,300 to the Mental Health Association in Tompkins County in 2018. Ho has also served as a member of The Sophie Fund’s Student Advisory Group, offering endless perspectives and advice on everything the organization does.

The Sophie Fund was proud to learn that Ho was selected to receive The Cornell Tradition Senior Recognition Award at her graduation ceremonies last month. Cornell honored Ho for her many contributions to community service during her undergraduate years. In conjunction with the award, Ho generously donated a $500.00 honorarium to The Sophie Fund.

Ho, was a double major in Biological Sciences (Neurobiology) and Sociology in Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences; she minored in Inequality Studies and Global Health. For the next two years, she will be pursuing pharmaceutical drug policy research with the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at the Harvard University-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, with plans of continuing her advocacy and activism in health inequality everywhere. She hopes to one day pursue a career that combines her passion for service, social justice, and medicine.

Due to her work with Ithaca’s community organizations, Ho will move on not just with a Cornell degree but a profound appreciation for the importance of helping others—and ourselves—when it comes to mental health.

Ho puts it best herself:

“As I look to what lies beyond the ivory tower and beyond Ithaca, I reflect on my experiences here, and realize that one of the most important lessons I learned during my time here is that we all have mental health, and that it is absolutely critical to take care of oneself in the process of chasing our dreams. APO gave me a home like no other to pursue service in the company of the most kindhearted and loving individuals I’ve ever met, and I am so proud to call my fellow peers some of the most devoted advocates and volunteers for mental health I’ve ever seen.

“Change begins when we are willing to support ourselves and those around us. Service to mental health starts by choosing kindness and understanding. Not all big change comes in the form of huge events or big fundraisers or legislation (though these are all critically important). The biggest changes that have occurred during my time here have been the result of everyday people choosing to ask those around them how they are doing as opposed to what they are doing. Mental health intersects with every single aspect of our lives. Whatever comes next, we always have the choice to care for ourselves and each other.”

—By Scott MacLeod

Scott MacLeod is a co-founder of The Sophie Fund

Transgender Connections

Lack of acceptance, discrimination, and even abuse are common challenges faced by those in the transgender community. After Natasha Schreib joined the Ithaca Transgender Group (ITG), she quickly met another member, Ellen Marie, and they have been best friends ever since. “We talk to each other daily,” Schreib recalled in a recent interview with The Sophie Fund. “We get together weekly, constantly keep in touch through phone calls, give each other advice, and discuss some of our shared interests.”

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Ithaca is a relatively LGBTQ-friendly place, and perhaps nothing exemplifies this better than the existence of ITG. Established in 1999, the organization offers an essential space for transgender people to share their knowledge and experiences and to learn about local medical and mental health resources. And as Schreib notes, ITG provides “an opportunity to find other people to socialize and connect with.”

The heart of ITG can been seen and felt every other Sunday afternoon when members gather for biweekly confidential peer-support meetings to share gender-related experiences, perspectives, and advice. The sessions are for people who have transitioned as well as those who wish to transition or are questioning their birth gender assignment. Meetings are also open for significant others, families, friends, and allies—or SOFFA, for short—as a way of helping others understand the transgender condition and experience.

ITG also provides useful online information to the transgender community through a website rich in local resources. According to Schreib, to help avoid hassles or discrimination when seeking health services, ITG proactively has sought out and listed local medical providers, private therapists, and social workers who are knowledgeable about the needs of people in the transgender community. Some of the physicians listed highlight the provision of the hormone replacement therapy used in gender transitioning. In a sign of ITG’s strong presence in Ithaca, Schreib said that many organizations initiated listings on the website to assure ITG members of their trans-friendly approach. Other services listed focus on legal rights, alcohol and drug addiction support, suicide prevention, and LGBTQ issues.

Schreib, however, highlights the critical importance of ITG simply as a place where transgender people can feel at home. Research has shown that because transgender populations experience stigma, social isolation, discrimination, and victimization, they are especially prone to depression, anxiety, unhealthy sexual practice, and alcohol abuse. As Schreib notes, in the United States about 42 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide, a rate nine times greater than that seen in cisgender Americans.

Schreib is pleased to note that many members of ITG, including herself, have been able to form close relationships with each other. The ITG website includes a calendar packed with many local as well as regional and national activities. There’s the city’s “premier queer night” at a downtown nightclub every Thursday, or to slow it down a bit, there’s “Queers Go Bowling” at some local lanes. A half dozen or more members regularly skip the calendar and organize evenings where everyone finds a way to laugh and enjoy visits to favorite restaurants.

—By Amber Raiken

Amber Raiken, an intern at The Sophie Fund, is a rising senior at Ithaca College majoring in Writing, with a Creative Writing Concentration, and minoring in Education Studies. She is a writer and the social media director for IC Distinct Magazine, a student-run culture and fashion publication.