Funding Announced To Fight Suicide In Michigan Amid Pandemic

head in hands
By WWJ Newsradio 950

(WWJ) While suicide is a major public health concern at any time, there's heightened concern during the pandemic.

With that in mind, five local organizations coming together to provide $575,000 toward resources and awareness of suicide prevention.

WWJ's Dr. Deanna Lites reports the funding will be available to healthcare clinicians and behavior health specialists to develop ways to identify adults and children who may be at risk for suicide, and to offer services to meet their needs.

"With COVID-19, the mental health status of children and families is increasing dramatically," said Larry Burns, President and CEO of The Children's Foundation, one of the organizations providing the funding. 

The others are  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation.

Data from the Michigan Violent Death Reporting System during years 2014 -2017 shows that at every age, men were more likely than women to die by suicide. The Michigan age-adjusted suicide rate was 13.0, but the rates vary by race, ranging from 3.9 for Asian Americans to 24.8 for Native Americans. 

According to data from the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, there were a total of 7,133 deaths by suicide in Michigan between 2014 to 2018, which is an average of nearly 150 individuals per month.  

“Suicide is a mental health crisis in our country, as it’s increased by 35 percent over the past 11 years,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president of Strategy, Government and Public Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased mental health challenges for many, including suicidal ideations. We look forward to supporting innovative proposals that will decrease the rate of suicide attempts and deaths, and help connect those in need with appropriate medical, social and behavioral health services.”  

The funding opportunity will support up to 12 Michigan based organizations to implement sustainable, evidence-based suicide prevention practices, with grant amounts ranging from $50,000 to a maximum of $75,000. Programs that focus on population groups experiencing health disparities due to income, age, gender identity and ethnic or racial characteristics are especially encouraged.   

Non-profit organizations that provide direct treatment services are eligible to apply. The initiative solicits proposals from organizations serving Michigan’s health-disparate populations, including:  
  • Federally-Qualified Health Centers and look-alikes 
  • Rural Health Centers 
  • Tribal Health Centers 
  • Other safety net health clinics with capacity to bill third party payers 
  • School-based and school-linked health centers with high need 
  • Veteran’s Administration healthcare clinics 

Proposals are due September 15, 2020. Information and materials are available at bcbsm.com/innovations.