The North Central Accountable Community of Health Governing Board approved $456,736 in April to aid youth mental health, resiliency and suicide prevention in Grant, Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan Counties.

The funding provides curriculum and four years of programming for all middle and high schools in the region. The school-based program is called Hope Squad and is a suicide prevention program that uses advisors to choose youth in each grade to particpate as peers and learn about resiliency, inclusion, and noticing signs and symptoms of struggling individuals and alerting advisors of those people. The main goal of the program is reaching at risk youth early before attempting suicide.

“This program is really a game changer for our region”, said Dr. Julie Rickard, founder of the Suicide Prevention Coaltion of North Central Washington. “Having this program implemented in most schools in all four counties will allow students that move frequently to have the same experience, to be more readily accepted, and to be recognized earlier if they are struggling. That is the world I want to live in!”

The program is needed. According to Dr. Rickard, Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee has seen a 36% increase in emergency room visits related to self-harm, suicide attempts and ideation in individuals under 18 years old. This trend is not only in Wenatchee, but region-wide.

Funding support also comes from Cambia Health Solutions, who gave $2 million to Washington’s nine Accountable Communities of Health in 2021. The investment is part of a larger $11.5 million commitment across Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

The program launch has already begun, and plans are in place to scale the efforts at the start of the coming 2021-2022 school year.

“I look forward to a region where we shape the future through long-term investments in our youth,” Dr. Rickard said.

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