Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the release of the first report from the New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Established by the Governor in November 2017, the Task Force serves to increase awareness of and access to supportive services with a special focus on high-risk groups including veterans, Latina adolescents, and members of the LGBTQ community.
Recommendations from the report include strengthening public health prevention efforts, integrating suicide prevention in healthcare, timely sharing of data for surveillance and planning, and infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities.
“It is critical that every New Yorker has access to the resources and mental health services they need to lead stable, healthy lives,” Governor Cuomo said. “As we continue to bolster prevention efforts in communities across the state, especially among high-risk groups, these recommendations will help increase awareness and strengthen the safety net to protect anyone who needs help.”
“Our goal in creating a statewide task force on suicide prevention was to better understand and address the devastating impacts it has in communities across New York,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “With this report, we now have a blueprint for the future to strengthen our efforts to save lives, especially for our most at-risk populations – veterans, Latina adolescents, and members of the LGBTQ community.”
At the Governor’s direction, the Task Force examined current programs, services, and statewide suicide prevention policies in order to identify gaps in resources and strengthen coordination between State and local partners. The group was co-chaired by Christopher Tavella, Ph.D, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Peter Wyman, Ph.D, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and includes leaders from state agencies, local governments, not-for-profit groups, and other recognized experts in suicide prevention. The Task Force focused on vulnerable populations at greater risk for suicide, with special sub-committees created to examine how to better serve these groups.
The Task Force’s recommendations fall into four main categories and goals:
- Strengthening public health prevention efforts: Forging stronger partnerships with local communities, providing resources and expertise to assess local needs, and implementing research-informed prevention programs. Several recommendations are designed to jump-start State and community actions to expand the number of communities with prevention expertise to implement comprehensive public health prevention using best practices.
- Integrating suicide prevention in healthcare: Helping healthcare providers adopt a systematic approach to suicide prevention, which includes helping them to promote access to services, more effectively identify those at risk and utilize the most effective treatments.
- Timely sharing of data for surveillance and planning: Gathering and tracking data on regional trends in suicide rates and related behaviors is critically important to implement a high-quality public health prevention approach. By improving the availability of data, gaps in services can be addressed and local planning and prevention efforts can be enhanced.
- Infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities: Considering a community’s unique cultural and societal factors to develop effective programs and resources needed to create a suicide-free New York. Competence to address the needs of New York State’s diverse population is required across the full range of suicide prevention activities. In addition to tailoring services to address differences in race, gender, sexuality, and nationality, cultural competence includes the capacity for State agencies to differentiate programming needs of more rural and urban communities; competence within local coalitions to engage representatives of their diverse communities; recognition of the methods needed to reach each generation; and selection and tailoring of programming to suit the needs of each group at elevated risk for suicide.
In 2017, the Governor signed legislation requiring that the unique needs of all demographic groups and populations, including a special focus on Latina adolescents, veterans and the LGBTQ community, be taken into consideration when developing suicide prevention plans, programs and services.
Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa said, “I am very thankful for the work of the Suicide Prevention Task Force and their focus on the higher rates of suicide among LGBTQ New Yorkers, veterans, and in particular, Latina adolescents. The recommendations of the Task Force implement the goals of my legislation, signed by Governor Cuomo, and help move the conversation forward of New York’s commitment to preventing suicide among our most vulnerable populations, especially Latinas who have some of the highest rates of suicide in New York State.
Since the report was finalized, several recommendations have already been implemented in New York State, including
- Passing the Gender Expression NonDiscrimination Act,
- Increasing access to data to help support suicide prevention at the local level,
- Increasing collaboration at events designed for individuals transitioning from active military to veteran status, as this has been identified as a time of high risk, and
- Helping communities conduct in-depth reviews of local suicide deaths in order to more effectively target prevention efforts.
Additional Suicide Prevention Efforts in New York State
In addition to the Task Force’s work, OMH and the agency’s Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) are working to enhance programs and outreach methods to better serve high-risk groups, including African American youth and rural New Yorkers, as well as Latina adolescents, veterans and members of the LGBTQ community.
The SPO works with and provides funding to suicide prevention coalitions and local governments across the state to bring resources and programs to inner city and rural schools and communities to help raise awareness and reach these at-risk groups.
In September, the SPO will host and sponsor its fourth annual New York State Suicide Prevention Conference, at which keynote speakers and 30 breakout sessions will focus on strengthening suicide prevention through state and local partnerships and targeting these diverse, at-risk groups.
OMH is also hosting a two-day symposium in June on “Strategies for Behavioral Health Equity: Leaving No One Behind.” The conference will bring together researchers, policy decision makers, mental health clinicians and front-line workers to discuss how to best bring mental health services to marginalized and vulnerable populations to create mental health equity for all New Yorkers.
Dr. Ann Sullivan, Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health said, “Through the work of the NYS Suicide Prevention Task Force, Governor Cuomo continues to lead the way in suicide prevention efforts. The work this task force has done will literally save the lives of many vulnerable New Yorkers.”
Jim McDonough, Director of the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services, said, “Access to timely mental health services and suicide prevention efforts such as those called for by Governor Cuomo’s Suicide Prevention Task Force are essential to addressing the needs of our Veterans and Service members. Working with our partners in the Task Force, we recognize and embrace a collective responsibility to infuse critical knowledge, nation-leading resources and comprehensive networks of support and care to better serve and assist New York’s Veterans and Service members in need of mental health services.”
DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said, “The life-saving work of this task force reminds us how crucial it is we all work together to watch out for one another in order to prevent and address all suicide risk factors. By working together we can fight back and reduce the incidents of suicide and suicide attempts.”
State Police Acting Superintendent Keith M. Corlett said, “With this report, we take a first step towards focusing suicide prevention efforts on those who need it the most. We remain committed to working with our partners on solutions to this complex issue, with the ultimate goal of saving lives.
Acting Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, “OCFS applauds the work and recommendations of the task force which shine light on the critical issue of suicide prevention. This report is the foundation upon which this task force can build greater support for community-based resources for those who are struggling with mental and behavioral health issues, especially among youth in the LGBTQ community, youth who are aging out of the foster care system and youth who are returning to their communities following a juvenile justice placement.”
Howard Zucker, M.D., Commissioner of the NYS Department of Health, said, “Suicide is a tragedy with devastating effects on individuals, families and communities, which is why Governor Cuomo set up a task force to find ways to prevent it from happening. I look forward to seeing the Task Force’s recommendations implemented throughout the New York State, to provide people at risk of suicide with support and interventions to save their lives.”
Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said,”The link between substance use and suicide is undeniable and has far-reaching impacts on society. The findings from the NYS Suicide Prevention Task Force’s Report will help ensure that we are improving the overall well-being of New Yorkers, while also helping to safeguard individual and community health.”
Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Mike Hein said, “The Governor has brought greater focus to suicide prevention and the devastating impact these deaths have on families and communities. The task force’s recommendations will help better coordinate services to ensure that those at greatest risk have access to effective support and treatment.”