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State, Community Alliance Poised To Expand Suicide Prevention

Tom and Patti Franco of Joe Z Coffee invite the community to come in and participate in the Cup of Joe Campaign for a free cup of coffee throughout the month of January. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

The Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention is working hard to help save lives even more in 2017.

Victoria Patti, Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention coordinator, said there has been a lot of work put in Chautauqua County, and the momentum isn’t stopping for this year.

Currently, the group is working on a strategic plan which will focus on a variety of areas. The need in Chautauqua County is great, that makes the organization that much more important, Patti said. The Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention was founded in 2011, and collaborates with a variety of community organizations, individuals and other agencies to educate the community on suicide prevention and intervention.

“It’s a community initiative with the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene,” she said. “It’s a collaborative effort. We have partners in all different sectors of the alliance.”

While Patti said she didn’t have exact figures regarding suicide loss in Chautauqua County, a recent campaign the alliance and partners have undertaken will help gather that data.

The Cup of Joe Campaign, started in December 2016, allowed the alliance to partner with four coffee shops throughout the area. At each coffee shop, patrons are able to take a short survey regarding suicide prevention and awareness in exchange for a free cup of coffee. Attached to the survey is a wallet card with suicide prevention information, contact information and warning signs which patrons can keep with them. The campaign was adapted from Orleans County.

The alliance partnered with Joe Z Coffee, Labyrinth Press Co., Jones’ Valhalla and Ryders Cup in Lakewood for the program, and Patti said it has been a success.

Tom Franco, co-owner of Joe Z Coffee, said the campaign has been helpful even in daily interactions in his cafe. He said basing the campaign on taking a survey in a comforting atmosphere like a coffee shop has helped.

“It’s a comfortable ans social setting,” Franco said. “With the survey, you get different conversations going in the coffee house.”

There have been several instances in which the survey has sparked conversation, and ignited a sense of community in a positive way, Franco said. The campaign is helpful in raising awareness as well as providing survey data for the alliance, he said.

He said he was happy to get involved and help to organize the campaign.

“I have been to way too many funerals for people dying unexpectedly,” Franco said, adding that the efforts are worth it even if the campaign saves one life. “That’s why I’m involved.”

Overall, he said he thinks it’s important that local businesses and organizations get involved in these types of initiatives. Community involvement is key in making a change, Franco said.

“We all need to do our part,” he said. “We’re all nobodies, but we are (also) all somebody. We always talk about collateral damage, but we also have to talk about collateral hope.”

Patti said progress has been made by the alliance and their partners in the past few years, and there are plans on continuing that work this year. The alliance will be focusing on expanding training offerings, distributing more materials to hospitals, emergency rooms and community-based centers and accepting more partners such as law enforcement and media members. She said the alliance would also like to start a support group for those who have been impacted by suicide loss.

The alliance will continue with their events, such as Survivor of Suicide Loss Day, the annual suicide prevention walk and the Glow Your Mind event, which Patti said they are hoping to expand it into an official 5k.

However, the community isn’t alone in their work. New York State has also committed to helping prevent suicide this year.

The state Office of Mental Health recently released a suicide prevention plan, which found that New York State had a rise in suicide loss over the past decade. In 2014, 1,7000 New Yorkers died from suicide, which is the most recent data available. In Chautauqua County, the report found the age-adjusted suicide death rate per 100,000 was 11 to 13.8 in the county alone.

The plan stresses prevention in health and behavioral settings; prevention across the lifespan in competent, caring communities; and surveillance and data-informed suicide prevention in the state. The approach is a three-pronged attack on suicide through education, support and awareness which will attempt to combat the rise in suicide rates.

For more information on the alliance or the campaign, send an email to PattiV@co.chautauqua.ny.us or call 753-4519. The Chautauqua County Crisis Hotline is 1-800-724-0461.

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