CWLA partnered with the SAMHSA-funded Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) to provide an informative and timely webinar centered on the intersection of child welfare and suicide prevention: considering the increasing stress brought on by the pandemic it is critical that we pay attention to this issue for children and youth, especially the most vulnerable. Moderated by Julie Collins, Vice President Practice Excellence for CWLA, and Brandon J. Johnson, Public Health Advisor from SAMHSA, a robust panel of speakers addressed national trends and spotlighted an innovative program in Michigan.

In his opening presentation, Brandon Johnson noted that suicide rates continue to rise for young people, and that according to CDC data, there have been marked increases for males, African American youth, and LGBTQ youth. Additionally, research indicates that youth involved in the child welfare system have higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts than their peers. Johnson highlighted that in seeking solutions, programs need to address trauma and ACES across sectors, and to create targeted strategies for the most vulnerable youth.

Next, Dr. Dee Bigfoot, Director, and Julie Ebin, Director of Special Initiatives, from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), addressed national efforts to prevent youth suicide, highlighting key resources available, such as their new report: Breaking Down Barriers: Using Youth Suicide-Related Surveillance Data from State Systems.

SPRC also houses additional resources on their website, such as toolkits, fact sheets, a library of suicide prevention programs with evidence of effectiveness, and state-by-state suicide prevention information.

Finally, Seth Persky from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Cindy Ewell Foster from the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry presented about their partnership to provide targeted training for Michigan’s child welfare workforce in the safeTALK suicide prevention curriculum. The second goal of their project was to begin screening for risk of suicide in child welfare-involved youth.

The biggest takeaway from this segment was that the program directors surveyed child welfare workers to find out what they needed to be involved in these efforts, and then responded to the survey results, delivering relevant training. As Persky noted, they team had, “the best of both worlds – the best researchers in [Michigan] with the boots on the ground in the field.”

CWLA and SAMHSA are continuing to explore additional partnerships around the intersection of child welfare and suicide prevention and intervention. The slide deck and recording of this webinar will be made available for CWLA members on our website.