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Sustainability Planning for Suicide Prevention Programs

Ensuring the sustainability of a suicide prevention program takes careful planning from the early stages of program development. Creating a sustainability plan is a vital first step. Steps for developing a sustainability plan may include:

  • Identifying existing suicide prevention and mental health programs, services, resources, and supports within the community
  • Identifying free or low-cost mental health and suicide prevention resources to fill gaps in available services
  • Exploring potential partnerships to complement and enhance the program
  • Identifying available funding and financial resources and brainstorming how to vary program funding
  • Planning for how to communicate about the program and to whom
  • Developing an evaluation plan that includes process measures, to identify core components of the program to sustain, and outcome measures, to make the case for additional funds and support
  • Discussing how to ensure the program is adaptable to changing conditions and resource availability

Limited funding and resources is a common program challenge in rural areas. Creating a sustainability plan can help programs identify community partners, services, and resources to support sustainability. Potential community partners that can support sustainability may include state behavioral health agencies, local chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or substance use disorder prevention and treatment providers. Free services such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line can be used to provide mental health and crisis care during non-business hours. Strategic communication may help garner support for the program financially, support service delivery, and increase reach to the population of interest.

Resources to Learn More

The OPA Framework for Program Sustainability
Identifies and describes the key elements contributing to long-term organizational and programmatic sustainability.
Organization(s): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs (OPA)
Date: 11/2017

Program Sustainability Assessment Tool
An interactive tool for public health, social service, and clinical care programs to help them develop and assess their sustainability plan.
Organization(s): Washington University in St. Louis, Center for Public Health Systems Science

Leaving a Legacy: Recommendations for Sustaining Suicide Prevention Programs
Offers step-by-step guidance in developing a sustainability plan for a suicide prevention program.
Organization(s): Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
Date: 1/2023