Missouri suicide rate goes up, grant money goes down

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's suicide rate has increased to 15.9 deaths per 100,000, according to the Southeast Missourian, which published the American Association of Suicidology's 2013 statistics, which was released last Thursday.

Even though the suicide rate increased from 2012, the grant money going to the Missouri Youth Suicide Prevention Project is going down. In fact, the group doesn't currently have an active grant.

Over the last nine years, MYSPP has received the Garrett Lee Smith grant three times, with each grant lasting three years. However, when re-applying last July, the organization was denied grant renewal for the first time this decade. Now they're limited to using leftover money from the previous grant.

"We didn't get the grant renewed for a fourth time, but we're still working with some of the grant money leftover. That somewhat limits what we can do for now," MYSPP Director Scott Perkins said.

While their grant wasn't renewed, MYSPP was granted an opportunity to re-apply for the Garrett Lee Smith grant. That opportunity will come later this spring, and it would take effect around October, according to Perkins.

MYSPP said it loses out on training when it doesn't have grant money. With grant money it has had in the past, workers train people on suicide prevention in regional resource centers. Without the normal grant money, those training sessions are really only done by volunteers.

"Once we set up training sessions and call centers, the calls started coming in, so obviously there's a need [for the continuation of training]," Perkins said.

One other form of training has come by way of the public school system. Perkins said school districts that were trained in suicide prevention saw suicide rates drop the following year.

Most states depend on grant money to fund similar projects to MYSPP, and not all of them are as lucky in securing grants. Getting three Garrett Lee Smith grants consecutively is a rarity. If MYSPP secures a new grant this spring, which now runs five years, it plans on scaling up its operation.

"We would bring back the training we had before, and we'd also like to provide follow-up care for those affected by suicides of friends and loved ones," Perkins said.

Despite the fact getting renewed three times is rare, Perkins strongly believes the organization will get its grant renewed for a fourth time. He bases that strongly on the fact that MYSPP has overseen more training than any other Garrett Lee Smith grantee. Perkins envisions those training numbers increasing further with a new grant.

"Our goal is to reduce the rate of suicides in Missouri and also the rate of suicide attempts in the state," Perkins said.