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Rural Health Information Hub

Seneca County Mental Health Department and Racker Centers

  • Project Title: Countywide Suicide Prevention in Seneca County
  • Program Representative Interviewed: Margaret Morse and Sally Manning
  • Location: Seneca County, NY
  • Program Overview: Seneca County Mental Health Department provides comprehensive mental health programs and services for adults, youth, and their families in Seneca County, New York. Following several youth suicides, the Director of Community Services identified suicide prevention as a priority and sought to expand mental health and suicide prevention services, resources, and supports. The expansion included implementing universal suicide risk screening in primary care; training providers in Zero Suicide; and integrating suicide prevention across multiple systems including schools, primary care and mental health clinics, and other community-based programs. They have engaged all four of the county's school districts, and three school districts are in the process of implementing the school suicide prevention program, Sources of Strength. They worked with partners to create a uniform lethality response protocol for the county's schools, including immediate availability of crisis counselors, avoiding the potential of long waiting times for the nearest out-of-county psychiatric emergency department. They also received funding to build a 24/7 crisis response program.

    Seneca County also established a suicide prevention coalition to help advance the county's suicide prevention efforts. This coalition is described as a “small and mighty group that does incredible things.” They blanketed the county with a suicide prevention awareness campaign and engaged community members through listening sessions and visits to popular community businesses, such as pizza places and gun shops, to understand how they could improve services. Seneca County's work also leverages the family voice to spread their message.

    Training and awareness-raising are key components to the county's efforts to prevent suicide. They partner with their regional chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to host Finger Lakes Out of the Darkness Walks and school- and community-based trainings. All staff in the county's clinics are required to complete online suicide prevention modules.

    Seneca County has been able to leverage a close-knit professional community to provide high-quality, wraparound care to residents despite the challenges of engaging rural community members due to lack of resources, transportation, stigma, and cultural independence. Their success comes from what they call “The 3 P's – Patience, Persistence, and Pesky-ness.” The program's sustainability relies on close-knit professional relationships within the rural community of Seneca County.

Models represented by this program: