The Kenosha County Suicide Prevention Initiative
Suicide was the second leading cause of injury death in Kenosha County according to the Injury Research Center’s 2006 Burden of Injury in Wisconsin report. This, in addition to a sudden increase in adolescent suicides, led Kenosha County to form a suicide coalition with guidance from the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Injury Prevention Coalitions (WIPC) project funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program in 2005. The project worked to reduce the burden of unintentional and intentional injuries in Wisconsin by facilitating the translation of injury prevention research into the implementation of evidence-driven, community-based programs and policies. The academic and state health department partners supported local health department-based community coalitions through technical assistance, best practices guides, evidence-based research, and direct consultation in all aspects of coalition development and management, as well as development, implementation, and evaluation of the program, policy, or practice. In turn, coalitions identify priority areas of injury to address based on community priorities and resources and then select and implement an evidence-based injury prevention program. The Kenosha County Suicide Prevention Coalition was one of the five coalitions funded as part of this project.
At the conclusion of The WIPC project, the Injury Research Center and the Kenosha County Division of Health collaborated to further develop suicide prevention in Kenosha County. The result was an initiative to prevent suicide and non-fatal suicide attempts through increased education and awareness and decreased access to lethal means. This three-year project was funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program in 2008. Successes of the initiative include coalition growth, resource development, coordinated mental health services, initiation and sustainability of Question-Persuade-Refer trainings and the implementation of several means restriction activities through community agencies and emergency departments. As a result, suicide rates in Kenosha declined from 18.51 in 2007 to 11.01 in 2009. The rate of ED visits in 25-64 year olds decreased significantly in Kenosha during 2008-2009 compared to the remaining WI counties. Data analysis for the second half of this project is forthcoming to see if these promising results were sustained over time.
While the proportion of suicides involving firearms was lower in Kenosha than Wisconsin for 2005-2009, the proportion of suicides involving poisoning was higher in Kenosha than Wisconsin for the same time frame. Additionally, unintentional poisoning moved from the 4th leading cause of injury deaths in Kenosha County in 2006 to leading cause of injury death in Kenosha County in 2011 according to the Injury Research Center’s Burden of Injury in Wisconsin reports. In light of this new data, the partnership developed three new objectives: Prevent access to methods of self-harm, with a focus on poisoning; Expand prevention efforts through coalition expansion and formation of a suicide death analysis review team; and Increase identification, referral and treatment of persons at risk for suicide and self-harm. The partnership received an additional five years of funding from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program to begin work on these objectives in 2012.