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The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Suicide Prevention Task Force completed the statewide listening sessions held throughout fall 2019 and compiled their finding into an initial report. The work of the task force is a complement to the goals and strategies surrounding the governor’s Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters initiative announced earlier this month and his executive order to protect vulnerable populations signed last year. Informed by the testimonies and suggestions of people affected by suicide, mental health professionals, and other stakeholders from across the commonwealth, the report will be used to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy for significantly reducing the number of suicides in Pennsylvania.
Feedback from Listening Sessions
In August, the task force announced a series of 10 public listening sessions to be hosted throughout Pennsylvania. Over the next several months, Pennsylvanians gathered to talk about how suicide has affected their lives to help inform the task force’s draft prevention plan and work to reduce stigma around discussing topics such as mental health and suicide. More than 800 people — community members, state and local officials, representatives from county suicide prevention organizations, and stakeholders from other sectors of government — attended the sessions.
As a direct result of these listening sessions, the Suicide Prevention Task Force has identified the following key themes to inform the commonwealth’s four-year suicide prevention strategy:
- The stigma associated with mental health, suicide, and suicide attempts can affect the likelihood of individuals seeking help or continuing treatment, and how policymakers make decisions that affect mental health systems.
- Resources needed to elevate mental health as a public health issue, incentivize the integration of physical and behavioral health, and improve suicide prevention resources at the local level.
- Barriers to treatment, such as cost and insurance gaps.
- Access to more detailed suicide and suicide attempt data to help policymakers make effective, meaningful decisions.
- Issues within the mental health workforce, such as pay and barriers to entry, to improve quality of care.
- With proper resources, Pennsylvania’s schools and educators are uniquely positioned to save lives with suicide prevention strategies and resources.
The Legislature could take direct action to prevent suicides through the passage of a Red Flag Law (to provide a means to remove firearms from someone at risk for suicide) or safe storage requirements for firearms.
Suicide Prevention Plan
The task force anticipates releasing a comprehensive four-year statewide suicide prevention plan in the first quarter of 2020 that will be available for a public comment period. Following updates based on public comment, the task force will publish the final 2020-2024 Pennsylvania statewide suicide prevention plan, which will include:
- The landscape and gap analysis of detailed suicide statistics nationwide and in Pennsylvania.
- Guiding principles for suicide prevention in Pennsylvania.
- Goals and objectives to reduce suicide and suicide attempts in Pennsylvania, including reducing the stigma associated with suicide, suicide attempts, and mental health challenges.
- Recommendations for local and state policymakers, including public and elected officials, as well as cross-sector partners.
- A structure for the implementation and evaluation of Pennsylvania’s statewide suicide prevention plan.
The National Rural Health Information Hub has released a new toolkit, Rural Response to Farmer Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which discusses the rising mental health crisis in farming communities and provides information on organizations and model programs that are addressing the challenges and mental health needs of this population.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has released the 2019-2023 Pennsylvania Cancer Control Plan, recently adopted by Secretary of Health Rachel Levine. The plan contains 15 cancer control goals Pennsylvania is working to achieve over the next five-year period. The new website, pacancercoalition.org also includes a Cancer Plan Report Card which will be used to monitor progress toward meeting the goals.
Can alternative payment methods (APM) transform dentistry? Under our current system, the United States pays the most for health care and achieves the lowest performance among comparable countries. The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement analyzes how this applies to dentistry – and how APMs can make a difference. As more states use their purchasing power to encourage better access, quality and accountability in oral health care for children in Medicaid, growth of APMs will continue in dentistry. Learn how the approach works, as the costs were lower than traditional fee for service models, while utilization was higher in the APM plans. Read the article here.
With 61 percent of U.S. adults rating oral health as “fair” or “poor” and 51 percent listing it as their top health concern, there’s no question that our national oral health care system is failing the majority of Americans. Read Confronting the Nation’s Oral Health Crisis.
Part 2 of a research report from the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement demonstrates how Medicaid, with its limited dental coverage, significantly improved adults’ access and utilization of dental services, compared to those who lack medical coverage. Read the report.
On January 15, 2020, more than 160 attendees were in Ashland, Kentucky for ARC’s Regional Workshop to learn more about how to prepare competitive applications for ARC’s POWER Initiative to diversify the economy in Appalachia’s coal impacted communities. Topics discussed included project development, budgeting and matching, evaluation and performance measurement, as well as partnership development. This was one of three field workshops to prepare potential applicants. Short tutorials on the same topics are available online as a virtual workshop.
To date, ARC has invested over $190 million in 239 projects to strengthen the economies of 326 coal-impacted communities. Competitive POWER projects are regional, strategic, and transformational in their approach to the economic revitalization of coal-impacted communities.
The first steps to applying for POWER funding are to:
- Read the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative: FY 2020– Request for Proposals (RFP) available here.
- Contact the ARC State Program in the state(s) included in the proposal to review project ideas and confirm they’re in alignment with relevant state(s) economic development priorities. Contact information available at www.arc.gov/power.
The required Letter of Intent, which is a one-page snapshot of your POWER application, providing ARC and its state partners with a general idea of the proposed scope of work and the players involved, is due by February 28th. Final applications can be submitted here by March 27th.
In the week of January 19, 2020, ARC began accepting applications for the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy (AEA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as the ARC/ORNL Summer STEM Program in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Each program is an all expenses paid, summer immersive, learning experience for Appalachia’s high school and middle school students.
As part of AEA, Appalachia’s rising high school seniors will participate in a curriculum focusing on mentorship, from leading entrepreneurs and businesses in the Pittsburgh area, skill building, access to soft and hardware maker spaces, and providing connections to the ARC’s larger regional network. With support from the Institute for Education Leadership (IEL), the program will take place from July 6th through July 31st, 2020. Applications are due March 6th and can be submitted at www.arc.gov/aea.
The ARC/ORNL Summer STEM program is designed for the Region’s high school and middle school students, and high school teachers, who are interested in STEM. Students will have the opportunity to work with award-winning scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the largest U.S. Department of Energy research facilities in the U.S., work on guided group science, math, and computer science technology research projects, and high school teachers work with science practitioners to develop a STEM-related curriculum. The program runs from July 5th through July 17th, 2020. Applications are due February 28th and can be submitted at www.arc.gov/summerSTEM.
Recent work by the Commonwealth Fund has shown that the ACA narrowed racial gaps in access to healthcare in PA, NJ, and across the country. The uninsured rate gap between white and black adults is now less than 4 percentage points in Pennsylvania. Read more here.
Maryland is planning to sue PA over Chesapeake Bay Pollution after multiple requests to improve cleaning up the pollution. Suggestions of investing in support for the 33,000 farms nearby to support in reducing harmful run-off has been a key component. Read more here.