Arizona health authorities launch new efforts to prevent suicide

May 12, 2024, 7:15 AM

arizona department of health 2024 2026 suicide prevention plan...

A new statewide suicide prevention plan is the first of its kind. (File photos: ADHS, left, Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images, right)

(File photos: ADHS, left, Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images, right)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services is launching a new three-year suicide prevention plan, authorities announced last week.

Joshua Stegemeyer, who is the suicide prevention program manager for ADHS, said many people don’t realize how widespread this issue is.

“It’s a silent problem that people aren’t generally aware of,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

In fact, there are twice as many cases of people being hospitalized for suicidal ideation than there are hospitalizations due to vehicle accidents in Arizona, Stegemeyer said.

The 2024-2026 suicide prevention action plan is the first of its kind in Arizona due to its collaborative approach, he said. Essentially, ADHS wants to fight the issue through partnerships with various local organizations.

How will the Arizona suicide prevention plan work?

The plan itself is broken down into three parts, Stegemeyer said.

Firstly, ADHS will analyze suicide data and hospital discharge statistics to create specific strategies.

However, the most exciting part of the plan is the second part, Stegemeyer said. That’s the part where authorities put their ideas to the test by spending money on solutions. Specifically, nonprofits focused on suicide prevention around the state can apply for grants.

ADHS plans to distribute between 23 and 45 of these Suicide Prevention Capacity Building grants. They’ll award various nonprofits throughout the late spring and early summer.

Not only that, but the second part of the action plan also involves creating a new job. ADHS will fund a suicide prevention professional at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health for around two years.

“Maricopa County is about 60% of Arizona’s population and that tracks with its risk for suicide where it’s about 60% of our total death by suicide in the state,” Stegemeyer said. “Having a dedicated person there is going to be really important.”

Furthermore, ADHS will partner with the University of Arizona to monitor the plan and make sure it’s effective.

Third part of plan involves deeper partnerships across the state

“The third part of our state plan is also very exciting: the partnership element of this,” Stegemeyer said.

Almost 300 different stakeholders from over 100 different organizations gave direct input into the state’s suicide prevention plan from August 2022-August 2023. Together they created 25 initiatives in the third portion of the overall state plan.

“Every single one of those was generated by somebody working out there trying to prevent suicide in our community,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz McNair contributed to this report.

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Arizona health authorities launch new efforts to prevent suicide