Franklin Co. commissioners grant $450,000 to suicide prevention efforts

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Franklin County commissioners passed a resolution on Tuesday that gives $450,000 to provide mental health and suicide prevention services in public schools.

The county is partnering with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, hoping to reach out to kids who need help. According census data, about 75,000 kids in the county are suffering from a mental illness. Only about half of them are getting treatment.

“The worst thing imaginable happened to us,” said Denise Meine-Graham. “My son, Drey, died in August 2012.”

To Meine-Graham, suicide awareness is something very important and close to her heart.

Her son was 19-years-old when he died by suicide. She then began Franklin County LOSS or Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors.

“I think about my son in particular and he had just been to the doctor’s office not more than three weeks before he took his life and if more people were educated… I know they’re going to save lives,” Meine-Graham said. “They’re going to save lives.”

The resolution, passed by commissioners, includes a three-pronged approach:

  • Provide mental health and suicide prevention services in schools
  • Integrate mental health services into primary care clinics
  • Expand outpatient and crisis clinic visits

“Tragically there has been a significant increase in the rate of completed suicide in Franklin County in children and teenagers,” said Dr. David Axelson. “That’s why we felt a responsibility to do something about it.”

Dr. Axelson is the medical director for the Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He said suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10-19.

“I’m hoping that we are going to be able to make a major impact in the schools, helping kids feel comfortable to talk about depression and about suicidal thoughts, being able to talk to a trusted adult if they’re having thoughts about suicide and to get help and to help kids feel comfortable accessing resources,” said Dr. Axelson.

This partnership will last through the end of 2017 and will serve 25 public schools in Franklin County. Commissioner John O’Grady said they would definitely consider renewing the resolution for 2018.

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