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PUBLISHED: 6:22 PM on Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Alaska receives $1.5 million youth suicide prevention grant
JUNEAU - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded a $1.5 million grant to combat youth suicide to Alaska's Division of Behavioral Health, Department of Health and Social Services. Funding will be $500,000 per year.

Alaska youth age 15-24 committed suicide at three times the national average in 2005, amounting to nearly 30 deaths per 100,000 people.

"The suicide rate among our young people is unacceptable," said Behavioral Health Director Melissa Witzler Stone. "This grant gives us more to offer to communities facing the highest risk of youth suicide."

Each year, more children and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, and chronic lung diseases combined, said SAMHSA Acting Administrator Eric Broderick. "These new grants will help states build on and strengthen established youth suicide prevention and early intervention strategies."

Alaska will target youth age 14-24 with the grant, said L. Diane Casto, manager of Prevention and Early Intervention Services for Behavioral Health. The state aims to build regional networks of trained teams who can identify those things that stress local youth in a community, and those that strengthen and protect them.

"To succeed, we will need broad collaboration with our partners," Casto said.

The division will work with school districts, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, DHSS Division of Public Health, the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the Alaska Mental Health Board, the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and others.

Alaska's grant was one of 18 to states that SAMHSA announced last week. Funding in the next two years is dependent on funding availability and progress achieved by the award recipients.


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