New York state has launched a $5 million multi-agency pilot program aimed at reducing suicide among vulnerable groups in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.
Funded through a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administered by the state Office of Mental Health, Capital Connect will utilize data from state agencies and local partners to identify at-risk groups for focused prevention efforts in specific areas and industries in the four-county region.
New York is one of only six states to receive the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said.
“While our state’s mental health resources are among the best in the nation, we still lose far too many New Yorkers to suicide each year,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “With a focused approach to prevention, we can better identify groups and industries most at risk and ensure they have access to resources, and this $5 million grant announced today will help us provide critical support and foster connections among vulnerable individuals throughout the Capital Region.”
Chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Theodore T. Kusnierz, Jr. said mental health and wellness “are equally as important as physical health and Saratoga County is committed to offering services to assist those who face such daily challenges. The Capital Connect Program will help promote a healthier community by assisting at-risk populations including our young people suffering from the lingering effects of the pandemic and working-class men who’ve also seen an uptick in mental health crises, according to recent studies.
“These funds will help Saratoga County reduce the stigma surrounding mental health services while assisting those suffering with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.”
With the five-year grant, the Office of Mental Health’s Suicide Prevention Center of New York has partnered with the state Department of Health and state Department of Labor to identify groups and industries most at-risk for suicide. In addition, the agencies will work with schools, county mental health, juvenile justice, local hospital emergency departments and the area’s construction industry to help focus efforts in the four-county area, where suicide attempts and death rates exceed the state average.
Officials said the primary goal of Capital Connect is a 10 percent reduction in suicide attempts and deaths among vulnerable groups who have been shown to have disproportionately high rates of suicide attempts. The initiative is part of the Office of Mental Health’s larger goal of reducing mental health disparities in historically underserved communities, including communities of color.
The Office of Mental Health utilized surveillance data from the Department of Health to identify two disproportionally affected populations. These groups include adolescents, who have been increasingly treated at emergency departments following suicide attempts, and working-aged men, whose suicide rate is triple that of the general population.
New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said research with diverse populations and age groups “clearly shows that social connection matters when it comes to our mental well-being. And while there is no one solution to the complex problem of suicide, by working across sectors and using a number of proven strategies supporting healthy social connection, we can make a difference and save lives.”
To support adolescents, the Capital Connect program will partner with schools to provide a structured suicide prevention needs assessment, consultation, and a range of training options. The program will also support expanding and refining e-Connect, an innovative program that screens youth on probation and connects them to mental health care treatment and services.